Intern of the Week: Delaware-born, China-bound

Robert Weiss volunteered for a presidential campaign before he was even allowed to vote. He was only 17 when he served on the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Florida in 2004.

The Princeton student, now 19, has always been an enthusiastic Democrat. He recently completed an internship for Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and is now busy heading up the New Jersey state federation of College Democrats.

But soon he is off to Hong Kong, where he will study Mandarin until August. With a month before school starts again, he wants to take his remaining vacation time to work for Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential campaign.

“Government is where we can make a difference in the world,” Weiss said.

Last week, at a speech given by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Weiss posed a pointed question about gay marriage: Why call gay marriages “civil unions,” which Dean signed into law as governor of Vermont, when, in Weiss’s view, gay couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples? He said Dean agreed about equal rights, but did not offer specifics.

Weiss was just as forthright during a speech by Donald Rumsfeld, when he asked the former defense secretary about his post-Iraq plans.

“He danced around it and asked if he’d answered me, and I said no,” Weiss recalled. “He’s not defense secretary [anymore] so no Secret Service agents came out and escorted me away.”

The tenacious teen hopes for less “sleaziness” in the way Congress operates, and says that he admires politicians who are truly concerned with good policy instead of “screaming on C-SPAN.”

As for himself, says Weiss, “I want to do something to save the world. Something policy-oriented at a think tank or something.”

Last summer, the Wilmington, Del., native interned for Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.). But he likes work on the House side, where he says he has more freedom as an intern.

“Sorting mail still confuses me,” he said.