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A path to politics

November 5, 2008

I was raised by two very politically aware and involved parents. Though they never tried to impress their opinions upon me, they were open and outspoken with us, each other, and their friends about their political views. They read the paper every morning over cups of tea, releasing little murmurs of disbelief or bemusement here and there. I had to beg my mother to let me listen to music instead of NPR on drives home from school (I didn’t even bother to argue with her on the way to.)

When I was younger, I sometimes tried to read their favorite sections of the paper after they did for signs of what caught their interest, but inevitably my eyes would glaze over about halfway through any article of the political persuasion. I preferred the comics, to which I pledged, at a young age, a loyal commitment. I looked each day for my favorite comic strips as others will look for their favorite op-ed columnist. I was not following in my parents’ footsteps.

It was not for lack of trying that I was unable to absorb the passion for politics I observed in my parents and other acquaintances. In fact, I envied them for it. I wanted to have a political identity and I wanted it to be founded on my own true beliefs and opinions. I often turned to my father, an extremely smart man with a great talent for explaining things, to enlighten me as to his personal political preference as well as the distinctions between the two major parties. Yet despite my best efforts at paying attention, his words fell upon my ears in a manner akin to the trumpet-like voices of the adults in a Peanuts movie.

And so, I went through the motions – of course having opinions on issues I cared about, yet still unable to confidently enter into any sort of political debate. I was 18 years old and a freshman in college at the time of the last presidential election in 2004, and though I dutifully registered to vote absentee and sent in my marked ballot, I could only explain my decision on the thinnest of levels. I’m sure I stayed up late with my new friends and classmates and professed the expected fear and excitement that accompanies such monumental occasions. In truth, I felt like an impostor.

Still intent on becoming a politically aware and interested person, I tried my hand at International Relations/Political Science courses early on in college. But the dry theories and daunting economics requirements quickly turned me off. My interests soon led me to study Peace and Conflict Studies, which is sort of the more emotional, hands-on cousin of Political Science. In this, I found my passion. Studying the nature of conflicts, the complexities of their origins, and the possibilities for resolution caught and sustained my interest in a way politics never could. Ironically, it was this newfound love between Peace Studies and me that brought me here to the political capitol of the world, Washington, DC, to work for FCNL.

It must be hard at times to work for a non-partisan lobby, particularly during an election year. For me though, the process of working for peace, justice, and a healthy environment through a non-partisan lens has provided a comprehensive understanding of the complex inner workings of this country and what needs to be done to improve it. Contrary to what people might think, peace does not belong to a political party. In fact, it often seems as though politics in general is antithetical to peace. But when the hard work of our staff and constituents garners the support of even one unexpected member of Congress, it’s a really good feeling, and reminds us why we do what we do.

Now, I could have learned all about the government, politics, and how actual policy-making is done in any number of professions. But through FCNL I have learned about these things that I never cared much about as the indirect result of working for things I care deeply about. If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain, so to speak. I have been both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised at just how many misconceptions I had about the world of politics and its parties before coming to work here.

This election year, I made a considered and confident decision on my ballot, and I have FCNL to thank for it. Not for the decision itself, but rather for instilling me with the ability to make my own choice for once. With a new administration, we are about to begin the exciting and challenging uphill process of repairing and improving our country, and I’m proud to be involved and even more proud to be here for it.

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