HHS alum completes 2nd D.C. internship

Sen. Pat Roberts and Daniel Kunantaev pose for a photo on Capitol Hill during Kunantaev?s second summer internship in two years. Courtesy Photo

Daniel Kunantaev had such an enjoyable time last summer serving as an intern in Sen. Pat Roberts? office in Washington, D.C., that he accepted a second term this summer.

?I was excited to do it again,? said the 2010 Hills?boro High School graduate, who will complete degrees in economics and political science at Texas Christian University in December.

This time around, Kunan?taev was assigned to the press secretary?s office.

?When I decided to go back, they decided to task me with some more responsibility?and kind of a different aspect of the whole thing,? he said. ?It was fun to be able to get that side of it. I hadn?t seen that side at all last year.?

Job experiences

Kunantaev worked closely with press secretary Kath?ryn Knight and communications director Sarah Little.

?We were constantly monitoring the headlines to see what news was coming in?related mostly to agriculture, anything midwestern related and Kansas especially,? Kunantaev said.

?When we?d see (relevant) news, we?d put it in front of the senator to make sure he?s up-to-date every morning on what?s happening. That was a cool.?

He said one of the projects on which he worked this summer was the effort to build a memorial for Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Kansas native who led American troops in World War II and went on to be the nation?s 34th president.

?Sen. Roberts is the chairman of the committee on that,? Kunantaev said. ?I was pretty involved, as far as press stuff.?

On one occasion, Kunan?taev attended a celebratory reception when the Taiwan?ese government made a donation to the project. Among the attenders was Bob Dole, former Kansas senator and presidential candidate.

?It was a pretty cool experience,? Kunantaev said.

He said design disputes have hobbled the memorial. The Senate Appro?priations Com?mittee has been refusing to authorize the money the planning committee needs to move ahead.

?They?re not really in tune with the design,? Kun?an??taev said of committee members. ?It?s a more new-age steel and metal construction. The conservative committees are more in tune with the columns in D.C. They want old marble, and this design isn?t like that.?

He said both Roberts and Dole are pushing to see the project move forward as quickly as possible?before the veterans who served under Eisen?hower in World War II leave the scene.

Once the project is authorized, Kunantaev said the campaign can begin to raise the needed estimated $100 million in private donations for construction expenses.

Office atmosphere

Kunantaev?s office duties were not the only thing that was different about this year?s internship experience. Last year, Roberts was in the thick of a heated election-year battle, and his campaign effort in Kansas required extra-duty time.

?Last year with the election, we?d do the same stuff we?d do during the day, but then after work, from 6-9 p.m., we?d work on campaign stuff,? he said. ?This year, as far as the office, there was the same kind of attitude and demeanor, but you could tell there was a lot less pressure because of having no campaign.?

During his second time around, Kunantaev said he got a better feel for the way politics operates?or doesn?t operate?in Washington. And he got to know Sen. Roberts better, too.

?There?s a general misconception that he?s kind of out of touch and old,? Kunan?taev said. ?But he?s a genuinely good guy. You can see him constantly fighting for Kansas.

?People don?t really know how politics works?it?s ?if you do this for me I?ll try to that for you.? (Roberts) fights trying to do the other things for people that he consciously knows will hurt Kansas. He tries to push back, but sometimes there?s not much he can do.?

Privileged to serve

Kunantaev said it was a privilege to get a second internship assignment.

?I learned a lot more this year, I?d say,? he said. ?It also was nice to go back and get some (college) credit hours and be done with school finally.?

After Kunantaev completes his final semester at TCU this fall, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in economics?possibly at prestigious Cornell University, where?s he?s already been accepted.

He said he?s not interested in jumping into a political career at this point in his life, but his experiences in D.C. have him thinking about longer-range possibilities.

?I think I?d be interested in running for the First District seat (in the U.S. House) someday,? Kunan?taev said.

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