I felt knowledgeable when AgriPOWER traveled to Washington, D.C. to learn about the federal government because I had lived and worked in DC three years ago. But I surprisingly found myself outside my comfort zone during Session 4, where we were provided a closer look at the inner workings of the state government. We had a jam-packed schedule consisting of high profile interactions with all three branches of Ohio’s government. We had the honor of meeting an executive branch representative Director Dorothy Pelanda at the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s campus in Reynoldsburg. We attended one-on-one meetings with our local state representatives and/or their office staff in the Vern Riffe Center, covering the legislative branch. And we had the utmost pleasure of hearing from Justice Judith French who hosted us in her place of work, the Ohio Supreme Court. She shared the judicial responsibilities, processes of the state supreme court, and how it determines which cases to hear.
I was impressed by the grandeur and artisanship throughout the Ohio Supreme Court building and was admittedly somewhat star-struck by Justice French, but when she asked how many justices sit on the Ohio Supreme Court, I was jolted awake. I knew the answer off the top of my head for U.S. government, nine, but couldn’t rattle off the same information for the Ohio government. Justice French shared the answer of seven and conversation moved on, but I found myself pondering why I knew all sorts of U.S. government factoids but not state. That night I Googled all sorts of burning, yet basic, questions about my state government.
Cameron Sagester, one of the Session 4 guest speakers from the Ohio Republican Party, observed politics are in the forefront of the general public’s attention more now than they have been in the past several decades. This comment made me reflect on my own predicament. The general public is invested in U.S. politics, hence our focus and therefore knowledge is concentrated on the national level instead of the state. Meanwhile, the state-level government ultimately has more direct impact on our daily lives. A fervent Google search will not be the solution to this knowledge gap. How do we, as a general public, become more knowledgeable about our state government? I recommend we begin by getting involved at the local government level.
One of AgriPOWER’s objectives is to grow class members into leaders in their communities. This could be choosing to run as a candidate in a local race for your school board or supporting a county-level campaign such as for the recorder, auditor or sheriff. In our country, we are fortunate that we are not required to have a law degree or be a career politician to participate in our government process. More lay-people than ever before are running for elected official positions. If you want to make a positive difference in your community, you’re already half-qualified, I urge you to take the next step to learn how to become fully qualified.
Understanding the legislative process, by Kelli Hartman
Inspiration to get involved, by Jared Persinger