• Citizens of character should seek out professional successes

    Engaging people who are making positive contributions is a step toward the sacrificial quality Jeremi Suri refers to in his recent column about developing citizens of character. Accepting sacrifice, Suri says, builds character because it makes citizens strive for what they really value. While developing your interests and passions, develop yourself as an advocate. When your passions align with advocacy, sacrifice no longer seems like the burden it’s often made out to be.

    Doing well and doing good requires a balancing act. Doing well for yourself is something most undergraduates think about. We are programmed to look at job prospects. That’s the way our educational system is structured — you pay in and eventually you need to be paid back. Schools are ranked by job placement and salary, which encourages students to pick their majors based on postgraduate statistics. But meaningful work does not always come with a salary.

    That being said, doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive things. The latter just requires a bit more creativity. There’s so much we can do as students, outside of our majors, to find our means of advocacy.

    To begin with, discover your interests and stay curious. This is a research university, and the professors here do more than teach. They research. They’re activists. They’re innovators.

    Our professors have done anything from helping develop a late-stage cure for exposure to anthrax to serving as national security advisers under the president. If you’re interested in something, there will be a professor who writes about it or has done work in the field.

    Eureka, an online UT database, profiles faculty members with information about their research interests. Professors are great resources for academic, professional and personal guidance. They’re plugged into the University, so they can refer you to organizations and other interesting people. Find the people making positive contributions, doing things you’re interested in and engage them.

    Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.

  • So close, yet so far

  • Election reform, voting both important

    Last week, Jeremi Suri reminded us about the importance of informed voting. Too many people vote for personalities instead of policy. That’s why we see the stagnation, hyper-partisanship and “public ugliness” he talks about in our politics today. But let’s talk about what your vote means.

    Your vote is most important to whichever city you’re from. In "Local Elections and the Politics of Small-Scale Democracy," political scientist J. Eric Oliver called local government "the hidden leviathan of American politics." 

    These elections determine where your house, grocery stores and schools are. They also tax you, directly and indirectly. Property taxes are often determined by the local government and can be unrestricted. The local government also determines the business tax breaks that you’re obliged to pay for. Local politics affect you from your home to the workplace. Remember this the next time you blow off tablers outside of the SAC trying to register you to vote.

    So voting is huge. Especially locally. But there are huge parts of the government that don’t work off of how you vote, either. This is where Suri and I may diverge. The rally to energize voters should be met with intense change from the top.

    Consider that my influence on the system is not the same as Bill Gates’. Or Goldman Sachs’. I do not have the same political resources nor the same privileges. Corporations hold property, enter into contracts, enjoy free speech and are constitutionally protected. But when a corporation and I disagree, my interests are put in competition with theirs. And that’s a losing game.

    If I’m concerned with the protection of natural resources in a way in which a corporation is not, what happens? The people decide, right? Well, no. I have nowhere near the same resources as a corporation when it comes to lobbying, media appearances, sponsoring a think tank, consulting my critics and contributing to political campaigns that will favor my policies. Corporations are just one example of the power players that set the national agenda.

    There are others, many others.

    What Suri is focusing on is the process; but we should take the product into account. We should encourage “lazy” voters to actually look at policy platforms, but we should be more publicly critical of the power players involved.

    Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.