Workshop: Political Engagement: How can I Get Involved? – J. Stuart Adams, Pamela Atkinson, Tim Brown

by Abdullah Hassan, 2018 ICLRS Student Fellow

The session “Political Engagement and How to Get Involved” was moderated by Paul Edwards, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and Policy for Utah Governor Gary Herbert. Members of the panel included J. Stuart Adams, Senator from district 22 and Majority Whip in the Utah State Senate, Pamela Atkinson, an advocate, philanthropist, and advisor to Governor, Gary Herbert and Tim Brown, Mayor of San Clemente California.  

The focus of this panel was to discuss the importance of being politically involved within your community, the costs that come with political engagement, and the benefits to society. The panel began the discussion with a simple question, “Why should people be involved in politics in the first place?” Pamela Atkinson was asked why she had been involved for the last 30 years and she replied: “If I don’t, who will. Everything in the world is not perfect and you need to speak out at times so your voice can be heard.” Too often members of a society feel like we won’t be able to make a difference and that only those with influence should be involved in politics. Each member of the panel spoke about how they had no plans or intentions to join the political arena and that it happened naturally. They also talked about how they too once felt as if they were too insignificant to make a difference, yet they still volunteered, ran for office, and chose to at least try to make a difference. Senator Adams talked about how he “fell into politics” and that “if you want a better spot for [ those you love] to live in, you have to lean in and get involved.“

While the benefits to getting involved certainly outweigh all of the costs, the panel discussed the deterrents from getting involved. Pamela Atkinson talked about emotional bankruptcy and how “we give ourselves up so much that we may neglect our families.” Senator Adams talked about missing family moments and that “Time is a big cost, however, helping the greater good makes up for any of the costs.” Mayor Brown also described how your life goes from private to public once you are in office and that can be both a gift because you can use your platform to make a difference, and also a curse because your life is no longer private. In the end, the message that the panelists wanted the audience to take from the session was that everyone needs to use their voice and speak out against injustice, to respect other people, listen and inform others about our views.  By getting involved politically, we can all make a difference and bring out the best in our society.