What draws people to politics?

Josh Cook

I don’t want to be a politician. There’s no part of me that believes I’m even remotely worthy of having my name next to a box on a ballot, let alone for people to check that box. Luckily for me, there’s a myriad of ways to be involved in the political arena without having to tell mass amounts of people I’m the answer to their problems.

In the spring of 2019, I’ll be graduating with a degree in political science – much like my peers on this trip. I didn’t even declare for the major until my junior year, when I realized I was already well over halfway done with the program without actually being a part of it. I find this to be a reflection of how I feel about politics; it both scares me and piques some of my deepest curiosities. I knew, coming to Drake, that there was a strong political program and, with that, the opportunity to learn from some incredible political minds. But my main area of study is journalism and mass communication; I love stories. More than that, I love people.

As I began taking journalism classes, I quickly realized how important politics are to people everywhere – though I admit, beginning my education in the heat of the 2016 election cycle may have been the most intense time in recent history to do so. It wasn’t the political figures that drew me in (Trump, Bernie, Hillary, Gary Johnson, etc.). Rather, it was how passionately I saw people talking about these characters and, more importantly, the issues they cared deeply about.

While I have learned a considerable amount about politics from great professors in my time at Drake, what has driven my fervor for politics is the human interest stories. Most specifically, I am curious: what draws people to politics? Naturally, with politics being issue-based, many people tend to care about a particular issue and wiggle their way into politics because of that. But there’s also been a common thread of authority and power-wielding that are immensely fascinating to me.

Those who seek to test the power of certain offices and positions, seeing just how far they can push the envelope, are an interesting case. While I fail to relate to this particular motive, it is one which has curated some of the most influential leaders throughout our history and is easily understandable in our country’s hierarchical structure. Certainly, this dichotomy is non-exhaustive, but these are just a couple potential routes I’ve noticed.

This leads me to my biggest hope for this trip: I’m incredibly excited to speak to and network with people who are engrained in the most politically influential city in the entire world and see what it is which drew them into politics, or what keeps them in it.

I expect to get a lot out of this trip. Not only are we embarking on a journey with two of the most knowledgable, caring and passionate professors Drake University has to offer, but we will be surrounded by bright minds from all stages of life – all eating, breathing and thinking politics for two weeks.

I expect I will meet thoughtful, deliberate people who can provide me a great insight as to their interests and motives behind getting into the political world and making it their life’s work. Working a career in politics seems burdensome, and quite frankly, a little depressing to me, and I am hoping to hear people’s stories about what keeps them going and fighting for, or chasing, what they believe in or desire.

Some other things I hope to get out of this trip are some excellent networking experiences and opportunities. I have a bit of networking experience, and am looking forward to putting my interpersonal skills and personal brand to the test in the most politically intense arena in the continental United States. I’m really looking forward to meeting people from other schools who are also attending, as well as having thought-provoking discussions with the professionals we are privileged enough to get face-to-face time with.

Along with these hopes, I’m humbled, and so very excited, for the chance to ask questions. I can’t wait to get to D.C. and have dedicated time to ask political professionals all sorts of questions about their work, their lives outside of work and what life is like in D.C.

Some of the issues I care more passionately about, and have worked on, are, for the most part, rights-focused – namely victim’s rights, women’s reproductive rights and the protection of minority rights in a majority-rule system (in no particular order). I hope to connect with professionals tackling these issues from any sector or point of view and see how the issues impact their perception of life in D.C. I am also hoping to get the chance to discuss how current professionals feel about these issues, the biggest problems or potential solutions facing the field, and any projections on these issues they may be qualified to offer.

The name of the trip is ‘Inside Washington’ and I’m eager to get there and talk to the people inside the city and get a feel for what life is like. A chance at a potential career opportunity sure wouldn’t hurt though.

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