April 8, 2024

Reflections from Capitol Hill

Emma Guenthner standing in front of a fountain

When the Capitol was breached on January 6, 2021, most people watched it from afar. Sonia Norton ’18, on the other hand, was in D.C. 

At the time, Norton worked for one of the members of Congress who was trapped in the gallery. If it hadn’t been for pandemic-related health precautions, she would have been on the Hill and sending interns on assignments in the very halls and rooms where violence unfolded.

For Norton, the events of January 6 cannot be discussed without addressing the very real impacts not just on those who work in the Capitol, but also on the residents of D.C. whose home city was attacked. After the attack, many great public servants left the Hill for their well-being, Norton says. 

Norton was also in D.C. when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in 2020 and when the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision was announced in 2022. She found comfort in being steeped in an involved and passionate community during those pivotal moments.

Currently working on Capitol Hill as the senior legislative assistant in the office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Norton has a portfolio that includes drug policy reform, immigration, housing and homelessness, foreign affairs and defense. She is grateful to work for someone who is also passionate about a plethora of issues. “We both come from a place of wanting to really help people and make Congress work better for our constituents,” she says. 

In her role, Norton has become an expert on navigating the issues in her portfolio, helping advance the member’s priorities and supporting impactful policy. 

After graduating from Earlham, where she majored in politics with a minor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, Norton served as a Fulbright-Neru English Teaching Assistant in the first such cohort in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India. She interned in D.C. during college, but since moving there in 2019, she has taken on various congressional staff roles in the offices of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Congressman Kaiali’i Kahele and Blumenauer. In addition to her roles on staff, Nor- ton was also recently elected to her third term on the Women’s Congressional Staff Association Board. 

Norton credits Earlham with teaching her how to ask questions and process complex topics quickly with others. This allows her to hold space for multiple perspectives and recognize the humanity in whomever she’s speaking with. 

Even though she has witnessed firsthand the stark political polarization that the country is experiencing, she has built friendships across the aisle with people who care just as deeply as she does. 

“[I find optimism in] having little wins that are impactful and really help people, even if it’s not the monumental change that we ultimately need,” says Norton. “Seeing people be really involved in that process in the violence prevention space, in the climate space, but also more and more across the board, is meaningful.” ■

Story by Jensen Pennock ’16 ESR ’22 

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