When I was first notified that I received the undergraduate research scholar position at the Voinovich School, I was very excited to gain a better awareness of public policy issues and solutions. I was excited to grow professionally and most importantly, I was excited to work at an institution named after an accomplished and well-respected politician from the state of Ohio. I thought about the possibility of meeting Senator Voinovich but knew my job was as a research scholar and therefore didn’t get my hopes up.
But as I read the email inviting me to dinner with Senator Voinovich later in April, I realized how lucky I am to be part of an institution that values even the small contributors to the overall success of bettering Appalachia and the state of Ohio. Inviting undergraduate students to meet the Senator is inspiring. It reaffirms my belief that, although we all begin at the bottom, we have amazing opportunities to grow, develop and form connections that point us in the right direction to our next accomplishment.
Although we all begin on the bottom, many then rise to the top. Once there, it can be easy to get caught up with professional and personal responsibilities and forget about those who helped you get to the top. Although on top, with a successful careers as attorney general of Ohio, county auditor, Mayor of Cleveland, Governor of Ohio, and U.S. Senator, Senator Voinovich still seems to recognize staff, faculty and students’ hard work to fulfill the Voinovich School mission- on every level.
I look forward to meeting Senator Voinovich, not only because of his great accomplishments on political and professional stages, but also because of his personal efforts to recognize everyone who contributes time, energy and knowledge to the Voinovich School’s many achievements!
I had the opportunity to have lunch with Senator George Voinovich when he visited Athens this semester. The Senator also came to my interest groups class to talk about his experiences as a public servant, so this gave me a significant insight into the mind of a veteran of the public sector. I hate to harp on civic engagement again, but it really stood out in my talks with the Senator. The three points that related to civic engagement in our talks were social capital, compromise and herd mentality, and political business.
Social Capital is making sure that peoples’ voices and frustrations are heard by public officials. The Senator was adamant about going to the people when dealing with any political issue. He believes that a lack of social capital today is one of the main causes for lack of trust in our government and why we have divided government today. This is really one of the plus sides of being a faculty or student in the Voinovich School. We as a school have a mentality that we must engage the community on any project we work on. It was one of the things the Senator constantly praised the school for because there are so few institutions that actually use Community Based Participation in their day to day activities. The lesson on social capital is that in order for our country to move forward, we must rebuild the trust that has been lost in the everyday citizen.
Compromise and herd mentality were two points brought up by the Senator on why our government cannot accomplish very much these days. On compromise, the Senator brought up that nobody is willing to ever compromise on issues. He went on to add that very few are willing to do the right thing for our country. It seems that today, everybody has some sort of image they have to uphold instead of doing what is best for our nation… I will talk about this more in a second. The herd mentality goes along the lines that nobody wants to stand up for what they truly believe in because they are afraid of what their peers are going to say. Yes according the Senator, even United States Senators deal with the peer pressure that plagues teenagers’ lives. How can Democracy really flourish if our leaders cannot come to the table and compromise or even stand up for what they believe in even if it’s against their party?
Political business was not a phrase used by the Senator, but a concept that I thought of to explain my last point. The Senator brought up the fact that interest groups, like the Sierra Club, have a certain niche or business plan that makes their existence possible. That is why these polarized groups are never willing to compromise, because if they do their customers or constituents will get upset and stop supporting their group. This is the same concept of why the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world exist; they are filling a niche in the political spectrum that will make them a profit.
These were my takeaways from my talks with the former Senator, George Voinovich. As future or current public servants, we must really remember why we choose the career path we did. It was to actually help some people in this world. In order to help those people, we at times will have to compromise, but also stand up for what is right. It is the principles our democracy is built on, political discourse.
Here’s a civic engagement plug; my peers can vouch that I am obsessed with this issue. With the election being this week we all have to remember that as citizens we have duties that must be upheld, as Chris Berman said “As citizens we have a duty to vote”. Yes I just quoted ESPN, but as I watched Monday Night Football last night, Chris really struck me with this notion. Voting is one of many important duties we all have as citizens, but it is not the only one. We have a duty to our community; we have to remember to help our neighbors when we can. This seems to be something my generation has forgotten as we become more isolated with technology. Many associations are worried about the younger generation because we are less likely to join their causes.
There are also many important issues that we must rally around. I believe we as nation actually do a good job with rallying around issues that affect our nation. Just look at 9/11 or breast cancer. Thousands of people are always willing to donate time, money, and fashion choice for the day to help support the fight against cancer. The only problem with these issues, they often are a one-year thing. Yes, many fight these causes all year, but that is not the norm.
As students, we have duties to Ohio University, our professors, and our peers. We must remember to make our school the best learning experience in the nation and up hold the reputation of our great university. To our professors we must continue to progress academics by asking questions. They have opened the gates, but we have to continue the mission. To our peers, we have to support one another in our journey for knowledge and the passions we have. Remember to support your friends by attending their events and support your Bobcats for the work they put into their sports.
I bring up civic engagement because it’s a passion for me, as I stated before. I cannot stand when my peers say they refuse to conduct political discussions or get involved in projects that affect more than themselves. That is one aspect of the Voinovich School I appreciate. Our professors are not just professors; they work on projects that make a difference for many people. This is probably due to the fact our school focuses on leadership and public affairs. Many of my colleagues at the Voinovich School want to be career public servants, just like the person our school is named after, George Voinovich. Senator Voinovich worked his whole life to make his community, city, and state the best in the nation. He pretty much held every office, but President of the United States.
We all should take a lesson from Senator Voinovich. Civic engagement is not just something we take part in every four years. It is something that we must partake in everyday, something that we are dedicated towards. So next time you see an opportunity to give blood or volunteer. Remember that democracy is built by the people, for the people so make a difference for your fellow man.
If you remember my post from last week, you know that I have been extremely busy working on my thesis. In my last post I said that I hope next week when I am writing you I will be close to being done. Well, it’s next week already and I can say that I am seeing the light at the end of a very very long tunnel. I am working on the finishing touches of my thesis and am proud of what I have been able to accomplish. A thesis is a huge undertaking, but I have been able to manage the stress of it all by taking frequent breaks and working out regularly. The only free time that I have had in the past week is allowing myself to go to the gym, which is the best way for me to handle my stress.
Other than working on my thesis, I have two other points of interest to share with you. The first is that I heard back from the Sierra Club who told me that I was not chosen for the Best Internship on Earth position. I was disappointed to hear this, but not devastated because I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, and I know that other opportunities will present themselves at the right time. Although I wasn’t chosen, my efforts and all of the votes of support from my family and friends were not in vain because I won a $150 pair of running shoes for being in the top 10!
On another note, I was extremely excited to hear today that I have been chosen as one of three students to attend a lunch with Senator George Voinovich next Thursday! I am honored to be able to have the opportunity to meet the man that the Voinovich School is named after and hear his insights on the public sector and the environment. I love to meet inspiring people that push me to work harder and seize opportunities. Today was the perfect day to receive the news about the luncheon because I have been starting to lose momentum on my thesis even though I am so close to the finish line, and I needed to be reminded that there are other people out there working hard and that hard work will eventually pay off for me as it has for them.