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Politics Versus Public Administration: Ways to Make a Difference

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Aerial view of of a meeting in the Roman Senate
Aerial view of of a meeting in the Roman Senate
(Image by Marco Oriolesi)
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A few days ago, ABC's George Stephanopoulos spent 30 hours with President Donald Trump as part of "20/20." There was a distinct shrugging off of responsibility from the president when asked questions about controversial actions he had taken and rumors surrounding him. Americans on both sides of the political spectrum have made clear their desire for change; however, this television special solidified a need for people who will speak truth to power.

It is watershed moments like this that encourage younger generations to start caring about politics. When things seem the tensest, young people can rise up to offer hope for the future. Some of them will choose to make political change as part of their profession.

If that is you, you may be questioning whether you should enter professional politics or public policy. In case you need some more information on the differences between the two and how they affect the world, this article will provide you the insight needed to set yourself on the right path.

Professional Politics

Those who want to make a difference may be looking to enter the realm of professional politics. This includes everyone from politicians to campaign managers. Essentially, these roles are the major league level of politics.

Without good people in professional politics, policies like Race to the Topwill continue to be passed, holding the welfare of the people for ransom. The NSA may keep spying on peoplewithout any explanation as to why. Or, more recently, 9/11 first responders wouldn't need Jon Stewart to sit before congress and plead for government compensation for their sacrifices. If you're thinking about becoming a politician, you could be affecting change along these lines, putting a halt to injustices happening on a large scale across the country.

On the other side, if you choose to enter political management instead, you may not be running for office - but you would be serving those who are. It would be your job to help get your candidate elected via campaign organizing, competitor research, speech writing, and fundraising. However, whichever side you're on, one thing is true: Professional politics need fresh ideas and new outlooks, and you could be the person to deliver them.

Public Administration

If you don't see yourself working to develop policy on a direct level, you may be able to make a difference on the ground via public administration. Those who work in this field are considered public servants - public policy plays out in their hands.

When politicians legislate social change, public administrators are the ones who implement those changes. They may work for a business, a nonprofit, or a government agency. The field and study of public administration has been at the forefront for some of the most important issues circulating in conversation right now.

Take the broad and important issue of diversity, for instance. Even with important cultural pushes, we still have a long way to gobefore fair representation is seen in organizations and workplaces. This is where a public administrator may come in to address the lack of diversity in these environments. The inclusion of people representing varied genders, socioeconomic statuses, disabilities, races, and sexual orientations are all components taught in public administration programs. The job of a public administrator is to work in this way to ensure that policy is being used effectively and the American people are being taken care of.

They also work to improve healthcare, education systems, and local government operations. For instance, public administrator Rulon Staceywon the University of Colorado's Public Administrator of the Year award for his work improving hospitals several years back. Similarly, a large group of public administrators recently petitioned lawmakers to allow them to take better care of disabled persons that are moved to different locations via the law. Within these systems, they work to ensure everyone is cared for.

Which Will You Choose?

Government officials and public administrators need each other. Without their counterparts, nothing would ever get done. Where you belong just depends on the kinds of skills you have and where you think you may thrive best. Think of it like this:

Without those working in public administration, businesses may not operate in ways that the law has declared fair. You may not hear about them enacting equal opportunity laws within their hiring because nobody would be helping them to do so. But in some cases, such as when the U.S. military overspends terribly, public servants would not have the power to take those responsible to task. Rather, they require serious moves regarding policy to make a difference. And thus those in strong government positions would need to get involved.

Deciding which path in politics you want to take might not be a simple one. Are you more interested in making big picture changes? Or do you want to ensure those changes are implemented correctly? Ultimately, both can be noble ways to go; the answer relies on where your skills best fit and the kind of overarching change you want to make. Either way, the American political system needs new blood and fresh ideas, no matter where they come from.

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Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter: HamiltonJori.

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Politics Versus Public Administration: Ways to Make a Difference

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