Week 1:
Orienting to Washington D.C.

Global Zero Fellow in International Policy

Global Zero | Washington, D.C.

September 9, 2016

Background on Global Zero

Global Zero is a non-profit based in Washington, DC, fighting for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. Global Zero is unique because it is the only nuclear security group utilizing grassroots energy for a public movement, specifically on college campuses. I first got involved with Global Zero because the Executive Director, Derek Johnson, an Alum of Cornell College, gave an on-campus talk through the Beta Omicron Distinguished Speaker Program. I was accepted as an Action Corps Leader for the 2015-2016 school year, which meant I had to recruit a chapter on campus and bring a grassroots force aimed at educating the general public about the threat of nuclear weapons.

Throughout my volunteering with Global Zero, I have interacted with seven Presidential candidates on their nuclear policy in the Iowa Caucus season. Global Zero brought me to New York City and Washington DC in 2015 and 2016 for group trainings. They also sent me to Japan for the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where I attended the Peace Ceremonies and traveled across the southern part of the country. Now as an Intern in DC, I am able to put together the pieces: the field team on the ground and the campaign strategy and the high-level organizing process. Additionally, I can also observe and participate in Global Zero’s policy analysis and research, which as an Action Corps Leader was not the focus. I am really excited to absorb the political environment of Global Zero and DC.

Columbia Heights 

My first week in Washington, D.C. has come with, of course, a lot of adjustments, new experiences, and exciting opportunities. When I stepped off the plane at DCA with only a suitcase and a half of clothes, I barely knew my new address, didn’t know my new housemates, and was still unsure of the status of a bed in my bedroom. I’m living in Columbia Heights, a hip, millennial-ridden, gentrified neighborhood in Northwest DC. Upon exploration, I found that much of what I need on a daily basis (you know, a Target, grocery store, coffee shops, metro station, and work) is within walking distance.  


Ritzy 14th Street

Ritzy 14th Street in Columbia Heights


My House

I live with 4 other people in a large, but old house near the glamorous 14th Street. I have a private room and porch, but share a bathroom and living spaces.

The Coupe, an awesome coffeeshop/bar/restaurant combo literally in my backyard.

The Coupe, an awesome coffee shop/bar/restaurant combo almost literally in my backyard.

Getting Oriented

WeWork office space on Florida Ave where Global Zero is located. Look for next week’s blog for an in depth description about this hip, millennial cooperative workspace, a new trend in a few US cities.

Day 1

I walked the 0.9mi commute to work on my first day, feeling as though the world could tell I was rapidly approaching a fair share of “first experiences.” I had a great check-in conversation with my site supervisor, John Qua, who had my first week basically laid out hour-by-hour. First, I was briefed on my regular tasks that need to be completed weekly for the Field Team. I had a few one-on-one meetings with the Digital Team, Research/Policy Team, and the Human Resources/Operations team. Meeting other staff members made me feel comfortable addressing other staff members and it put together a big picture for the organization.

Details about My GZ Role

As the Field Team Intern, my job will primarily be to help draft and edit campaign materials for the Field Team to roll out to our volunteer leaders. I will also be helping conduct rapid response with the Field Team and Policy/Research team during the three presidential debates in the next two months. Global Zero is broadcasting and adjusting our campaigns in real time. This means there is a lot of collaboration and crossover within the organization. I am prepared and excited for this type of comprehensive political action work. I hope to use this experiential learning to continue building on my existing skills and as a new opportunity to learn what I don’t know yet, both in content and technique. Getting exposure to GZ’s policy process will be beneficial for advancing my own career building and interests.

My Global Zero desk, equipped with my work iPad and Earl Grey Tea.

My Global Zero desk, equipped with my work iPad and Earl Grey Tea.

Action Corps Monthly National Conference Call

This week, I was also apart of the Monthly National Conference Call for Action Corps Leaders and Grassroots Team Leaders. These two programs are Global Zero’s organized volunteer force on college campuses and in communities to bring nuclear weapons back to public eye. Before joining the staff as an Intern, I was apart of the Action Corps on Cornell College’s campus. As a former AC leader and a current staff member, I communicated why accurate reporting really helps the office push the movement forward and give us information about the campaign’s success and reception. 

ReThink‘s Social Media War Room

I attended a screening event at ReThink Media, called the Social Media War Room, with some coworkers, as well as a lot of nuclear security groups to watch NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum with Donald Trump and Former Secretary Hillary Clinton. Global Zero pushed the forum sponsors to ask a nuclear weapons question on their submission website. At this live streaming event, almost everyone, including myself was live-tweeting, re-tweeting, and rapidly responding to the forum on Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, we weren’t successful getting a nuclear policy question in the live forum.

Before this event, I was unaware of other anti-nuke groups and their positions and I wasn’t completely aware of the relationship of these groups with GZ. It definitely piqued my interest to investigate the community more. ReThink’s Social Media War Room made me aware as to how important social media is to political movements and policy change, as well as how hard it is to mobilize without different players working together.

The No Red Button Campaign

On September 7, I was apart of an all-staff meeting held shortly after the digital launch of our Fall 2016 Campaign, No Red Button (exciting!). This campaign aims to represent what we are already seeing in the American public: fear of a President Trump with his finger on the nuclear “Red Button.” More than just concern for an unstable President Trump, No Red Button pushes the idea that the current launch procedure gives one person an absolute nuclear monarchy to launch hundreds of weapons at a moment’s notice.  I will be in the office, here in DC, for the majority of this campaign and I’m excited to see this take off across the country and see the impact in the approaching general election.

No Red Button, Global Zero Action’s fall campaign.

Final Thoughts from the Week

In general, I am excited to be here in the office, as well as getting to experience Washington, DC. I think I will learn a lot about policy work, public campaigning for a cause, and teamwork. I am ready to be flexible, work together, and utilize other skills and fields of study than just political science. Additionally, I think I will learn a lot about myself personally. I expect be faced with new, challenging situations and exciting opportunities that will allow me to grow, develop, and problem solve. I look forward to sharing that experience with you here on this blog over the next seven weeks. 

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    The Coupe, an awesome coffeeshop/bar/restaurant combo literally in my backyard.

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    WeWork office space on Florida Ave where GZ is located. Look for next week's blog for an in depth description about this hip, millennial cooperative workspace, a new trend in a few US cities.

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    Ritzy 14th Street

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    My Global Zero desk, equipped with my work iPad and Earl Grey Tea.

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Elissa Karim '18

Elissa is a Politics major from Nevada City, California.