Week 4 - Following Our Dreams

By: Anika Madhusudhan

Politics is a word with many definitions. The word doesn’t mean the same thing to different people. Some people have a disdain for it, whereas others thoroughly enjoy everything about it. To me, politics meant shady backroom deals and smiles that would quickly turn to scowls as soon as you have your back turned. Even when I joined my school’s Model Congress club, my view on politics didn’t change. I still regarded the world of politics with distrust, and though I was interested in political issues, I never considered an actual job within the political sphere.

Since experiencing my first speakership series with the New Jersey Leadership Program Summer Fellowship, my entire perspective on politics has changed. I realized politics isn’t just another world—it’s another universe. There are so many factors that are needed to create the “hospitable zone,” the perfect environment for anyone trying to make an impact in the political world. Of course, in politics, there is no such thing as the perfect environment for any politician, but the gist of what I’m saying is the same. There are many gears that have to work together in order for the complex machine of politics to function, or function as well as it can on any particular day.

Now, after several speakership series and an eventful trip to our nation’s capital, I find myself being more interested in a political career. Perhaps not exactly running for an elected position, but rather becoming an advisor to an elected official, such as a foreign policy advisor. And hearing intellectual and interesting lectures from accomplished, successful people on a weekly basis only furthers my interest in a political career. This week’s speakership series on politics and campaigning was especially thought-provoking and productive.

Our first speaker was Edison Democratic Chairman and Chief of Staff to Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, Shariq Ahmad. He spoke to us about the varying levels of influence that different positions within New Jersey government and politics play, along with the risks that come with running for an elected position. Following that, Robbinsville Councilman Dan Schuberth entertained us with stories from when he went door to door canvassing to speak with the residents of his town and secure their votes. He taught us how to analyze the voter pool and effectively put our time and energy into the pool of people that will yield results, as well as how to get people who historically don’t vote, to vote for you. Councilman Schuberth was followed by the accomplished Tara Dowell, President and Founder of the TDG Group. She advised us on proper behavior in the workplace, and the importance of polite persistence. She inspired us with her ability to accomplish her goals simply by working hard and being professional.

My personal favorite was the panel that came and spoke to us. West Windsor Councilwoman Ayesha Hamilton, Middlesex County Freeholder Shanti Narra, and Edison Councilwoman Sapana Shah gave an enthusiastic and energetic talk that really inspired feelings of passion. Every word they spoke dripped with sincerity and truth. Every time they would make eye contact with me, I could tell that they truly wanted me, as well as all the other fellows in the room to succeed at whatever we pursued. Furthermore, as a young female myself, listening to the hardships that these women had to go through and still have to endure just because they are females enlightened me to the fact that if I really want something to happen, and I put in the hard work and effort to do so, I can accomplish anything. I learned that I must fight the barriers constructed to put down or hinder women to pave a path for the girls that follow. Sitting in that room, across from those three accomplished women brought to me a whole new perspective.

Learning from others experiences, successes, and mistakes are the best way to build a sturdy plan for your future. And while I may change my mind and not pursue a political career in the future, the lessons that I have been taught by the speakers of NJLP won’t simply fade like fleeting dreams. These lessons will be cemented into my life like a child writing his or her name onto wet cement. The core values each speaker has presented my class of fellows with will stay with us for the rest of our lives, because it is applicable to every situation you can encounter in your life. The most important thing I learned on Saturday and will keep with me forever was this golden piece of advice from Tara Dowell, which is “Successful people do what unsuccessful people don’t.”