From San Jose to Capitol Hill: Upper school alumnus gives back to his home district as congressional staffer


Arely Sun

Legislative Assistant Eric Henshall (‘12) speaks to Harker Journalism reporters about his experience working in the office of U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo in the House Cannon Building in Washington, D.C. Eshoo represents California’s 18th Congressional District and is currently running for re-election against Saratoga Councilman Rishi Kumar.

by Eric Fang and Anthony Xu

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Standing next to a glass display case of U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo’s personal memorabilia and achievements, Legislative Assistant Eric Henshall (‘12) recounted how he came to work for the Representative for California’s 18th District on Capitol Hill after graduating only seven years ago from the upper school. 

As a legislative assistant, Henshall advises Eshoo on a variety of domestic policy issues, including energy, transportation, gun control and crime. While he started working for Eshoo as an intern in 2015, his involvement with her office began much earlier, when he was still a student at the upper school living in the 18th district. 

Henshall became inspired to engage in politics as a high school freshman during the 2008 presidential election. That year, he also visited Eshoo’s D.C. office and met many of her staffers, introducing him to the work that he does now. 

“It was just such an exciting time, especially during the Democratic primary when we were choosing between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton,” Henshall said. “There was a big sense of history coming out of the election, so I became very interested in politics.”

Henshall continued pursuing this passion for politics after graduating from the upper school and entering Georgetown University, where he majored in economics. In the summer before his senior year in university, he worked as an intern in Eshoo’s D.C. office. 

After graduating college, Henshall returned to the office to work at the front desk, answering phone calls and booking tours for constituents. Soon after, he became a legislative correspondent, responsible for responding to constituents’ messages, which number over 10,000 per month.

People say, ‘Oh, you don’t know what it’s like here,’ or ‘You D.C. people don’t understand what we’re going through,’ and I say, ‘Actually, I do. I’m one of you.’”

— Eric Henshall ('12)

“A lot of people who work here in D.C. don’t work for a member of Congress who’s from the same place as they are,” Henshall said. “People say, ‘Oh, you don’t know what it’s like here,’ or ‘You D.C. people don’t understand what we’re going through,’ and I say, ‘Actually, I do. I’m one of you.’” 

As a legislative assistant now, Henshall particularly enjoys advising the congresswoman on climate action policies. According to him, Eshoo’s office gained a “renewed urgency” to tackle climate change last year after the United Nations released a special climate report calling for unprecedented action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Right now, [Congress] is just not doing enough,” Henshall said. “I mean Congress as a whole has never passed legislation to address climate change aside from the Economic Stimulus Act back in 2008 after the recession, which included tons of money for renewable energy.” 

Eshoo’s office is currently working on passing the Energy Innovation Act, a bill Eshoo and other co-sponsors introduced to the House this January to tax carbon emissions and redistribute the revenue.

Since Henshall’s political engagement began in high school, he credited the diverse array of classes he took at the upper school with teaching him to think in different ways. 

“I took classes on government, obviously,” he said. “But I also took classes on economics, physics, and computer science. I’m a big proponent of the kinds of education where there are different types of subjects that stretch your brain in different ways.”

In the midst of working on national legislation, Henshall’s ultimate goal is to serve the community he grew up in. 

“I think it’s really valuable when I’m on the phone with constituents, and they say, I’m from Palo Alto or from Saratoga, because I know those communities,” Henshall said. “Obviously we care about all Americans. But it’s important to me to be able to give back to my own community in a way that I can while still working on these issues I care about.”