Senior Lehigh men’s soccer player Kevin Klinkenberg traded the Hill for Capitol Hill to intern in Washington, D.C., for Representative Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania in the 17th district, during the last semester of his undergraduate career.
The political science major first connected with Cartwright through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, where Klinkenberg was eventually accepted into the Emerging Leaders Internship Program.
Klinkenberg said growing up, politics was something he was interested in, and he realized he wanted to pursue it as a major when he came to Lehigh.
“There’s a lot of issues with our government that need to be reformed,” he said. “I think the only way to do that is to sit at the table and influence change.”
Men’s soccer coach Dean Koski said Klinkenberg’s unwavering work ethic was one of the distinguishing factors in his acceptance to the program.
“He worked as hard — if not harder — than most of the guys on the team and did that for two years without playing at all,” Koski said. “That speaks volumes about him as a person, his habits and values.”
Klinkenberg said the demanding schedule of a Division I athlete taught him the time management skills he needed to step into his new role, in which he spends each day balancing several different tasks. His responsibilities include answering phones, talking to constituents and responding to letters from constituents about policies ranging from veteran affairs to social security to immigration.
Klinkenberg said he enjoys Washington because every day is different, and he is able to get some real experience working by sitting in on meetings and conducting research for colleagues.
“I feel like I learned a lot at Lehigh, but to get real experience is definitely cool and different,” he said.
Koski said Washington is lucky to get a young man who is going to show up and work hard, no matter what role he is assigned.
“Without question, one of his greatest strengths is his character,” Koski said. “He showed up every day to practice and worked hard. Whatever role we needed him to assume — whether it was on the bench, sub, starter, you name it — he was ready. Aside from Kevin being bright, hardworking and (having a) high-level of character, he’s a team guy. He wants to do what’s best for the team.”
Klinkenberg’s former political science professor at Lehigh Saladin Ambar described him as a “thoughtful, attentive and bright” student who has a strong sense of justice and the public good. Ambar said Klinkenberg worked hard in his class, was always prepared and had a clear interest in the subject matter.
Ambar said Klinkenberg’s passion for politics was obvious whenever there was a discussion about different treatment based on race, ethnic and gender differences.
“I could really see Kevin affirming the need to support people regardless of those particular identities, and I know that’s something that resonated with him strongly in class,” he said.
Klinkenberg said he’s unsure of what direction he wants to take after completing his internship, but he is hoping this experience will help him find out.