The front line of civic engagement

After writing about experts, I wondered what experts I could chat with about civic engagement. There’s only so much I can say on the subject before it’s time you hear about it from someone else.

I almost talked to some elected officials about civic engagement. I got as far as writing the emails to set that up. But it didn’t happen.

I realized that was too easy. If you ever spend any time around elected officials, it requires little to no effort to have them wax poetic about democracy and the importance of being involved, especially when they’re talking to a younger person.

That’s no fun. I wanted to get a different perspective. I wanted to hear it from a fellow millennial. I wanted to talk to a couple of the 20-something-year-olds that man the desks in the offices of every state representative. If politics are nothing but a source of stress, then why does anyone in my age group bother to work in the bowels of the Texas Capitol?

I went there on “budget night” since I knew staffers would be sitting around waiting for hundreds of amendments to be debated. I grabbed two of them, one from State Rep. Helen Giddings’ office and another from State Rep. Celia Israel’s office, and tried to get an honest assessment of why it’s worth being involved in local politics.

David Feigen, legislative director, sitting at his desk - Photo by John Hernandez
David Feigen sitting at his desk – Photo by John Hernandez

David Feigen, the legislative director for Rep. Giddings, graduated from the University of Texas in 2014. Taral Patel, a legislative aide for Rep. Israel, graduated from the University of Texas in 2016. With both of their recent college experiences, they understood the variety of forces that can make engagement difficult.

Taral Patel, legislative aide, doing some work - Photo by John Hernandez
Taral Patel trying to stay busy – Photo by John Hernandez

They had a lot to say on the subject.



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