Can community activists successfully transition into politicians?
Can they retain their community-based interests over self-interest and ensure that the community remains a creator rather than an object of policy?
In the New York Times‘ Room for Debate opinion section, Bob Kerry, former governor of Nebraska and U.S. Senator, defines both terms. “An activist,” he notes, “is someone who organizes and acts for the purpose of changing a public policy or law. A politician is someone who seeks election to a public office on behalf of a general ideology and/or a specific agenda in which they promise to act.”
The most important duty of activists is to organize to promote both civil and human rights. I believe politicians who lack an activism background or an experiential knowledge base are as helpful to their constituents as a blind person guiding their counterpart.
To further expound on my analogy, activists emerge directly from their community. They specialize in building trust and establishing relationships that aid in better serving their constituents.
In contrast, your average, run-of-the-mill politician has gained most of their knowledge and awareness of community-based issues through books, experiencing these concrete struggles imaginatively.
This ideology is seen in the Associated Student Body (ASB). Although everyone in this governing body of our school has not previously participated in an external organization, there is a small group who has. Alex Martin, director of academic affairs for ASB stated, “Involvement teaches you to work as a group (together) and what issues matter not just to you but others as well.”
Genuine community needs and issues remain relevant if the politician has participated in a community organizing model, which teaches the virtues civic accountability of those we elect into public office.
Curtis Hill is a freshman English major from Lexington.