To be politically engaged, or to be paid to engage in politics

Concordia College students have very mixed feelings about the annual Faith, Reason, and World Affairs Symposium. Some students enjoy getting to listen to all of the different events hosted the day of, while others are frustrated by the obligation to attend due to various assignments from professors. This year also brought a new issue to the table, none of the events were live streamed. If anyone in the community wanted to attend, whether that be students, faculty, or community members (who are often invited to attend), they had to come to the events in person.  

As a political science student at Concordia, I was intrigued by this year’s symposium theme of engaged citizenship. Engaged citizenship is not something that you can define, being engaged looks different for everyone, so I was looking forward to hearing about different ways to get involved in my community. I had a general idea in my head of what I assumed would be talked about: the midterm election and ways you can get involved in it. I don’t know if it was just the event I attended, but the election wasn’t the main focus.  

I attended the panel discussion at 10:00 a.m. in Memorial Auditorium. The event was titled “Engaged Citizenship Through Political Participation.” The panel was filled with really personable people, and I enjoyed listening to what they had to say, but I didn’t learn how to be an engaged citizen. Each of the five panelists just talked about what their job looks like and how they got involved in politics. This leads me to the question of whether are they politically involved because they want to be. Or because they are paid to be? 

If the latter answer is correct, that’s totally fine. I have pondered a career in politics before. That being said, I was wanting to learn about ways that I as a college student right now can become more engaged. Not hear about how members of my community have made a living in politics. That being said, I do believe there was value in what was said, I just don’t think it was appropriate given the title of the event.  

Faculty Eric Schmidt’s response at the end of the panel was what most intrigued me. He mentioned that the political participation of 18-24-year-olds is down (not counting the 2020 election). Considering this, the panel would have been a great place to talk about different ways to get engaged! Rather than talking about how to use your political science education. He mentioned that it is his generation’s job to help us younger folks learn how to engage in politics and I believe that is great, and what I was hoping to get out of the panel. Unfortunately, those were not my takeaways.  

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