Politics should not be completely demonized
Letter to Editor
The subject of commencement speakers is always contentious, and this year’s choice of Condoleezza Rice is no exception. However, I was disappointed to see the Daily Targum’s editorial board perpetuate an inordinately cynical view of politicians and the political system shared by many college students and the millennial generation as a whole. The editorial board seems to write off public service as a noble pursuit altogether. While they acknowledge that Rice has achieved international success in her career, those achievements are rendered somehow less admirable because, “the fact is that her entire career revolved around politics — it is a major part of who she is and what she’s recognized for.”
This sentiment is not uncommon among our generation. According to the Harvard Institute of Politics’ 2013 Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Towards Politics and Public Service, only 35 percent of millennials think that running for public office is an honorable thing to do, and almost six in 10 believe that politicians are motivated by selfish reasons. And while young people have little faith in the current generation of politicians, they also feel a lack of political agency and little desire to enter politics themselves. Thirty-seven percent feel that “people like them” have no say in what the government does, and only 31 percent say that the idea of working in public service is appealing.
However, none of this means that we must perpetuate the status quo. While it is completely valid for the Targum to criticize Rice’s decisions made in terms of the war in Iraq — which, as a disclaimer, I certainly do not support — that is not a reason to denigrate the value of politics as a whole. Why not instead take Rice’s commencement speech and career as an opportunity to encourage students who disagree with her actions to get involved with public service themselves? To a certain extent, a political system is only as valuable as those serving in it, so is it not important then to inspire our graduating class to be a positive force in government, facilitating change and making less questionable policy decisions? While politics can certainly be an agent of evil and corruption, it can just as easily become a proxy for empowerment and progress.
And just one last question: Would you still have published this editorial if President Obama were our commencement speaker?
Elizabeth Kantor is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in statistics and political science.