This past week, Hillsdale College had the honor of hosting Vàclav Klaus, the former President of the Czech Republic, as a part of its “Rebirth of Liberty and Learning Campaign.” Luckily, I was able to attend the gala and listen to the man that truly epitomizes liberty and freedom.
Klaus’s childhood was dominated by authoritative regimes and oppression. Living in Czechoslovakia during the reign of Hitler and the Soviet Union, Klaus knew nothing but a lack of freedom and an abundance of government control. It was not until the fall of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia’s independence that Klaus was able to act out his deep-seeded beliefs of liberty that had for so long been repressed.
During his speech, he explained to a room of over 1000 attentive Students and donors that it was never his attention to become political. He never studied political science. He never was involved in the political system. And he never thought he would. Instead, he worked for a bank and taught economics. It’s for these reasons that Klaus was such an effective and meaningful leader who was able to exact the change the Czechoslovakia direly needed.
During the question and answer portion, one of my fellow Hillsdale College students asked the question that was burning inside of us: what can we do to better our nation? His response is perhaps the most intelligent and meaningful that I have ever heard. He told us (paraphrasing) to “Do something different.” The issue, he explained, was that those who grow up political are consumed by the sector, for that’s all they know. Instead of learning about what’s going on in the world, they relegate themselves to a very, very specific group that in the end, accomplishes very little. He told us the story of when he first became President of the newly formed Czech Republic. In meeting with other European countries, he found that they all knew each other and had for years; that’s all they knew! Individuals who want to make a change, he reiterated, must do something different, something that enlarges your world view and allows you to make a difference.
I know, this strikes a chord with many of us and confuses us at the same time. I myself, a young freshman, have known that I wanted to major in Politics since I could understand what a major was! I love government and civics and everything in between! With over 40,000 individuals having a Bachelors in Political Science conferred upon them in 2009-2010 alone, this is definitely a conundrum shared by many others. However, it is not the major that’s the issue, it’s what you plan to do with it.
As the future of the United States, we need to realize that our success as individuals and subsequently as a nation does not lie in knowing how to “work the system.” We need to know our nation and be successful in other realms. By doing well in other fields that contribute to the success of the country as a whole, we become the best leaders– leaders that know our country, our situation and, consequently, what needs to happen. Rather than focusing on being political (referring to the game), we need to focus on being involved in our society and taking an active role as a citizen first.
For us Politics majors: there’s hope for us. Rather than learning the game, define the game. Take that degree and work to show people the majesty that is our country. Show people and teach people why our nation is so wonderful. From there, you influence thousands, making our country a better place. And from that point, if you want to enter politics, you know you are doing so for the right reasons and for the right people.
Hank Prim | Hillsdale College | @HankPrim