What will you be when you grow up? What job would you like? I’m sure you’ve been asked that question many times, or if you haven’t been, you will be asked that question soon.
Your answer might be a doctor, maybe a truck driver, a teacher, a farmer the list is endless. But did you know there is one job you’re going to have that everyone who lives in this country has, and that is the job of being a good citizen.
When you study civics and government in your classes you are learning how to become a good citizen. Good citizens vote. Voting is where we pick, we select the people we are going to have represent us.. That means they speak for us. And they do this in all levels of government, so you might be voting for a city council person, or the member of a school board and that’s local government. You might be voting for a member of Minnesota State Legislature and that’s state government, or you could be voting for a member of congress or the president and that’s the federal government.
Good citizens also work to solve public problems. But what do people need to know to be good at their job as a citizen? Again, that’s what you learn when you study civics and government in your courses.
Now you might think “I don’t need to know all this stuff because I don’t plan to be present,” but
do you think that you might want to run for student council? Or maybe the school board when you grow up, or mayor of your city? And of course you want to be a good citizen. All of these jobs require that you know how government works because government can help you solve your problems.
Now I have a story about middle school students who thought that they needed a stop sign. They needed a stop sign because of road construction nearby that was causing a lot of congestion in traffic around their school. So they decided, “we’re going to get stop sign” and they learned who they needed to talk to, who’s that person who decides whether there’s a stop sign or not, they researched how much it will cost, what were the other kinds of implications of adding a stop sign, and in the end they got their new stop sign.
Now, we’re talking about what a good citizen does, and we’re talking about what elected officials perhaps do. What other kinds of jobs are there? What if you really like studying government? What can you do for a job? Especially if you don’t want to run for office, not everybody wants to be an elected official. there are people who work in this area, for example mention elected officials, that’s the obvious one, but they have staff and the staff do the research.
They talk to people who would be impacted by a change in the law, and then they come and recommend something to the legislature they work for.
We also have lobbyists. Lobbyists are people who really know how government works, they know how to get things done, and they take that knowledge and they put it to a task. They put it to a passion around an issue or a cause. It might be part of their job to help their employer.
The cause might be clean water, it might be lower taxes, it could be improved education, it might be health care reform.
Lobbyists talk to legislatures. They try to persuade them to agree with their ideas. They talk to the people and try to get those people to talk to legislators so that they can get them to agree with the ideas. After this have gone on, the elected officials, the legislatures or the members of congress, actually vote.
But there are more people who have jobs in the government. News reporters, people who take down notes and put it on the evening news or put it in a newspaper and it’s online. That’s because we can’t all get to these meetings so we rely on these reporters to tell us what happened at the meetings.
There are lawyers and judges, and there are many more. If you doubt you have a job to do, just go to the state capital where some of this work takes place. Look around. You will see professionals. They’re doing their job, they’re doing what they’re paid to do. They’re lawyers and lobbyists and staff, and generally speaking they are dressed up. You’ll see them in suits.
But I urge you to look a little further, because you’re going to see people of all ages including people as young as you, in tshirts, and Twin shirts, and sweatshirts, and jeans. And they’re all there because they care about a cause and they’ve carved out time to come to the capitol and talk to their legislatures.
Our system of government needs everyone. You can choose a career in government, but you don’t have to. . But you also have an important job to do even if you don’t, it is the job of citizens. So get informed and get involved.