The Study and Practice of Politics

By Abril Davila

I have had a strong interest in politics and government ever since I can remember. From a very young age, I have been concerned with civic participation and political leadership. The choice of Government as my major came naturally to me. Yet, despite my deep and innate academic love for this subject, as an undergraduate I still felt I needed to gain first- hand experience in the political profession.

My first opportunity to do so came with my participation in the Government Department internship program. With the outstanding direction of Dr. James Henson, the internship program gives students interested in politics the opportunity to acquire real professional experience in a political organization, while reflecting on their experience academically. The result of this approach is a deeper, and highly personal, understanding of the political profession, contemporary politics, and political leadership.

The political organization I had the pleasure to intern for was the Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate Campaign. As a Noriega intern I had the opportunity to jump into a statewide race for federal office, something I did not take lightly. I initially participated in the minor tasks of most departments of the campaign; these involved blockwalking, phonebanking, staffing campaign events, and participating in some field and communications strategies to increase campaign visibility. It was a priceless opportunity to learn how political campaigns operate from within, but also

to discover my own political capabilities and strengths. During campaign events and fundraisers, it became evident that focusing on the campaign message, and on the dialogue it generates, deeply interested me. Within a few months of working with Team Noriega, I found my campaigning niche – communications and press. I have had the oppor- tunity to continue working in this area of campaigning, especially in the field of Hispanic communications, a topic which I am particularly passionate about. And my experience with the Noriega campaign continues to inform and influence my work.

As the months progressed, I became convinced that political campaigns are just the most amazing workplaces. There is usually a contagious energy emerging from the camaraderie, stimulating exchange of ideas, and the constant anticipation for the next big news, events, and, of course, the next big YouTube clip. Yet, the Spring of 2008 was a particularly special time for Texas politics. Presidential primary contests were in full force at the national

level. And in an unprecedented fashion, it seemed that presidential nominations might not be exclusively determined by the early primaries. As the March 4th Texas Primary approached, political momentum in our state just seemed to grow by the minute. Participating in this particular electoral season gave me the opportunity to understand the role of contemporary political campaigns in a deeper way. I learned that an authentically successful political campaign will utilize modern and traditional tools of political communication to lead a dynamic and constructive conversation about substantive goals. Energizing voters merely for the purpose of winning is just not enough; our civic responsibility entails a larger obligation.

The internship program was an unforgettable, inspiring and constructive experience. It enabled me not only to com- prehend politics more deeply, but to gain a clearer understanding of my personal relationship to the political pro- fession. I highly recommend it to any student interested in transforming their academic knowledge and intellectual convictions into real political action. My participation in the program allowed me to realize that political leadership is not driven by ideology alone, but, as Max Weber wrote, by the “consciousness that life has meaning in the service of a cause.”

Abril Davila received her B.A. in government in 2009. Davila is a Townes Hall scholar and this year joins the 2010 entering class at the University of Texas School of Law.