VANE: Don't miss out on the calling of politics

August 20, 2011

Robert Vane“Man is, by nature, a political animal,” Aristotle wrote nearly 2,500 years ago. A true statement and one that begs the question, why do people revile politics with such fervor?

For millennia, the art and game of politics have shaped civilization. We remember those who have succeeded brilliantly and those who failed spectacularly. Politics has been used for tremendous good and unthinkable evil.

So this column isn’t about a political movement like the Tea Party (which I love) or the political media like Fox News (which I really love), but rather an exultation of politics, despite all the noise, as a calling.

Is there a more reviled vocation in the United States (or the world) than politics?

Politics, however, is a way for someone like me, and many others I know from both parties, to work their way up to positions of responsibility in both the public and private sectors.

As someone who grew up on the east side and is a proud graduate of Indianapolis Public Schools, I wasn’t exactly the scion of a famous or prosperous family. Affording college wasn’t an option unless I joined the military, so I spent three years in the Army.

I was hardly an infantryman, but I had a TV show for the public affairs office.

Politics, however, afforded me the opportunity to prove my loyalty and my ability to communicate a message, and it introduced me to some of the greatest friends I’ve ever met, regardless of party.

My first job out of graduate school was at the garage for the Marion County Sheriff’s Department working for the incomparable Capt. Fred Schulze. It proved to be, without a doubt, the best job I’ve ever had.

My career path included stops at the Statehouse, the election board and the Indiana Republican Party. Ultimately, I ended up working for the nicest, most genuine man I’ve ever met—Mayor Greg Ballard. It was an honor to be a part of his team as we addressed some of our city’s most fundamental problems.

Without politics, without the friends I met along the way, I would never have had the opportunity to work in the Mayor’s Office.

Without politics, I never would have had the honor of both John McCain and Joe Kernan wearing the POW bracelets I bought with their names on them.

Without politics, I never would have gotten to know one of the greatest citizens in the history of Indianapolis—P.E. MacAllister.

Just think of how much better our republic (and our city and state) would be if more people were involved in politics. So many people stay out of politics because of how they perceive it to be instead of getting involved and trying to change it.

Many people don’t like all the fussing that goes along with politics, and I get that. But I am a proud member of the Murray Clark School—my political opponents are not my personal enemies.

Whether or not you voted for Barack Obama in 2008, it was hard not to be amazed at the sheer number of people who were inspired to volunteer and vote for a man who had been on the national political scene just a few years.

In Indiana, you saw the same thing in 2004 with the ground-breaking, innovative Mitch Daniels gubernatorial campaign.

It is easy to focus on the scandals and the politicians who fall gracelessly from grace. But for every one of them, the ones we’d like to forget, there is a Richard Lugar or an Andy Jacobs whose service to this country we should never forget.

So get involved in politics.

And while my preference would be for you to get involved as a Republican, the result will be the same no matter which party you choose: You will meet the best people, have fun while working on a cause you care about, and maybe, just maybe, make a difference for our community.•


Vane, a U.S. Army veteran, has worked for elected Republican officials including Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, and currently owns the public relations firm Veteran Strategies. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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