Ryan Gutkowski, an intellectually disabled college student, seldom spoke when he first came to Capitol Hill. Now, he engages with staffers frequently — at times from behind the desk of his boss, Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper.
Gutkowski calls it “my desk.”
Usually painfully shy, Gutkowski, whose disability is caused by a chromosomal genetic abnormality, cracks an easy smile anytime Harper addresses him. Staffers say the two seemed to have an instant connection.
“Tell them where you’ve been sitting when I’m not here — are you sitting at my desk?” Harper prods Gutkowski.
“Comfortable chair!” Gutkowski responds.
“Well, I love that chair, but I don’t mind you using it when I’m not here,” Harper says.
During the past month, Gutkowski and two other students with intellectual disabilities have worked in the offices of Harper, Reps. Bill Cassidy, John Fleming, Cynthia Lummis and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, as well as the Republican office of the House Administration Committee. The students do everything from answering constituent mail and shredding paper to learning how to give tours of the Capitol.
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