Delivered at The Heritage Foundation on May 16, 2018, for the E.W. Richardson building dedication.
Noelani Bonefacio is originally from Kaneohe, Hawaii graduated from the University of Hawaii. Noelani interned in Policy Promotion at The Heritage Foundation during the summer of 2015 and lived in the Johnson Building during her internship. She currently works for the House Republican Study Committee as a Professional Policy Staffer and her portfolio includes education, labor, transportation, infrastructure and natural resources.
A little over two years ago, a couple of months after completing my internship at The Heritage Foundation while living in the Johnson Building, I packed my bags, got on a plane, and moved from Hawaii to Washington D.C. I had no job and no idea where I was going to live. It was one of the most terrifying things I had ever done, but I never would have had the courage to do it if I didn’t have the opportunity to live and work in the same neighborhood that I ended up moving to six months later.
I participated in the Young Leaders Program as a recent college graduate. I’d been working in the Hawaii state senate and was finding it difficult to make the transition to Washington D.C. Coming from Hawaii made participating in a D.C. internship a little more difficult than for the average intern. Taking an internship almost 5,000 miles away from home in an area that I had no family was definitely a challenge. But because of The Heritage Foundation’s prominent reputation in the conservative movement and because Heritage is one of the few D.C. internships that provided housing to its interns, it was an easy decision.
Interning at Heritage and living in the Johnson Building was an unforgettable experience. The Young Leaders Program is unparalleled in terms of D.C. internships. Not only does it prepare you for a career in D.C. and the conservative movement, but it opens countless opportunities for young conservatives.
One of the most valuable things about the Young Leaders Program was the opportunity to get to know the country’s future leaders in the Johnson Building. The interns built a community like nothing I had ever experienced. We explored the city together, many of us for the first time, and every week we would host potlucks and get together that we called Sundaes on Sunday and Flapjacks and Freedom.
The people I met in the Johnson Building were my first and closest friends in D.C., and are people I remain in contact with today. In fact, last summer we had a small reunion when two of our fellow interns who met during our internship were married in Arlington.
It’s because of my experience at Heritage and the Johnson Building that I was able to begin my career in the conservative movement in Washington D.C. with the House Republican Study Committee. During my internship, my supervisor introduced me to the Republican Study Committees executive director. Shortly after I moved to D.C., six months later, he hired me as RC Staff Assistant despite having no Hill experience. I truly believe that without the young leaders program and the connections I made during my program, my move to D.C. would not have been as seamless and successful.
Finally, I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Richardson family. I cannot tell you how excited we are for this new chapter in The Heritage Foundation’s internship program, and the opening of the E.W. Richardson building. It is because of your support that thousands of interns will be able to continue to advance The Heritage Foundation’s principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. I look forward to working with this community of future leaders and all those who make the Young Leaders Program possible for young conservatives like myself. Thank you.