Earlier this week, I accepted a ride from rather chatty Lyft driver back to D.C. from BWI. My driver was asking about studies and sharing her views in general on the types of people she had met in D.C.. When she found out that I study international politics, she of course talked about the relevance of this field to the current situation in our government. She then asked whether we would feel comfortable working for the government, because she certainly couldn’t see herself doing that at this time.
This question was interesting for me to reflect upon because I had asked myself this quite a few times in the past year. I used to be extremely set upon working for the State Department after I finished college, although I was beginning to reconsider this career path because I knew I no longer wanted to commit to the Foreign Service lifestyle of uprooting my life to change countries every three years.
After the election in November, I, like many of my fellow political science colleagues, was forced to reconsider my career path. As I believe I reflected in my blog post following election day, I was no longer sure I felt comfortable championing the policies of a government I felt to be unequivocally wrong.
Coming to Washington D.C. has changed my perspective on this a bit. I think this is obvious given my internship, which is for the Department of Defense. Despite disagreeing with the decisions or reactions of certain upper level administrators, I think it’s important to remember that there a lot of other parts to “the government.” And that there are many, many well-intentioned, hard-working people that make up those other parts of the government, as well as a lot of important programs which get absolutely no coverage. For example, I have read a lot of critiques about overspending in the DoD — and I think that there is a bit of validity in this, but also that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the entirety of the DoD. The program I’m working with, as well as the other joint security operations throughout the United States, are an extremely valuable and effective diplomatic tool, and aren’t just about spending on the latest missile or fighter jet. However, my office is extremely understaffed and under-funded, despite being part of the DoD. I don’t agree with the top level decisions of the administration, but I believe in the mission of my work, I believe that it deserves support, and I believe that it is bettering both our country and the world by fostering greater international cooperation and understanding. “The government” is far too nuanced and important to write off entirely as evil because of a few top level nitwits or bigots. One of the most inspiring things I have heard since I moved to D.C. is that after the election, a lot of high-level retired civil servants returned to their posts not because of any love of the new administration, but because they felt was their duty to serve their country with their expertise in its time of need. I admire this commitment to America, and could see myself being part of this workforce. I would still have reservations being at the top level or being involved in programs which forwarded points of the administration’s agenda which I view as unethical, but also I highly doubt I would be placed in any of these positions immediately after exiting grad school.