I'm a Political Science and Middle East Studies double-major with a minor in Theology. Wow, what a mouthful! When I first came to Fordham, I had been planning to do a minor in Middle East Studies, and then that turned into a major, and then I added Theology last year. What has remained consistent, however, is Political Science. I love politics. I love public policy. I love government and learning about the way things run. They inspire me, but why? I'll admit, with all of the problems facing our country and my (often growing) frustration with elected officials (*cough* GOP lawsuit *cough*!), it's hard to find inspiration and remember what's good about politics and government. To do this, I think back to where my love of politics began.
I've read countless articles about the importance of eating dinner at the table with your family so bear with me when I say that my family likes to bring our dinner into the family room and watch TV. Trust me, I have amazing parents, and this in no way detracts from my family dynamic! Why? Because we would watch Jeopardy! , Wheel of Fortune, (both of which are my dad's and my favorites), or we would watch the evening news and talk about it. We would also watch The West Wing which is (not "perhaps"- it just is) the greatest political drama of all time.
This show chronicles an entire (fictional) presidential administration under President Josiah Bartlett, played by the oh-so-talented Martin Sheen. It features his Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, Press Secretary, CJ Cregg, Communications Director Toby Ziegler, Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman, Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, and basically the entire federal government at the time of this administration. Not only is it incredibly accurate (albeit a tiny bit idealistic), but it's also hilarious.
The West Wing is fast-paced and witty, and features a diverse array of strong characters, both female and male. It taught me more about government and politics than AP Government from senior year and Intro to Politics from freshman year taught me, combined. I learned what a filibuster is from the season two episode, "The Stackhouse Filibuster", I learned how an election works from start to finish with the Santos/Vinick Race in the sixth and seventh seasons, I learned just how long it takes to write a State of the Union address, I saw both sides of the government-press divide, and I absorbed the passions and ideas of these extremely intelligent and driven men and women. Now, I know that it's idealistic and the political system doesn't quite work like this, but isn't it fun to dream sometimes? That's the part that made me want to study political science in college: the possibility of change. What if I got to do something for this country or even the world, just like they did? I grew up watching powerful, intelligent women like First Lady Abigail Bartlett, Press Secretary CJ Cregg, Chief of Staff to the First Lady Amy Gardner, and White House Counsel Ainsley Hayes. I had role models who I adored and aspired to be like, against the backdrop of the political system I was beginning to love.
We own the entire series on DVD at home and have worn out the discs from how often we watch The West Wing, but luckily, it's on Netflix! I think I've seen the entire series at least three times over, with preference for certain seasons or episodes, but it never gets old. Whenever I'm in the mood for smart entertainment, or am in need of inspiration, I turn to my old favorite, The West Wing:
This past February, I discovered the Netflix original series House of Cards. I like to call this "the dark side of The West Wing" because it's so beautifully devious, yet so smart and addicting. Frank Underwood begins as a senator who will stop at nothing to obtain political power. There's no idealism in HoC, only a brutally cold reality. Funnily enough, this show makes me love politics just as much as The West Wing does! The heat and passion of the quest for power gives you an adrenaline rush right from your couch. Not everyone is as purely evil as Frank Underwood, but I loved watching how things unfold and being embedded in the policy. I had to intersperse a few West Wing episodes while I was watching HoC, however, just so I wouldn't lose faith. The two made for a nice balance: the idealism and dreams of The West Wing, and the ambitious charge of House of Cards.
Inspired to Be,