In politics, as soon as an election takes place and the dust settles, preparations for a new campaign begins. The race may be exciting at times, but it's not all the glitz and glamour it is cracked up to be. Behind the fanfare and hoopla there is a lot of mind-boggling effort that goes into getting a candidate elected.
I know because this summer, as an intern with Ohio Governor George V. Voinovich, I got an inside look at what goes on in an election campaign. Voinovich will be running for the seat of retiring Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) in 1998.
I actually got my first taste of politics last summer as a Cole scholar in the Oberlin Initiative in Electoral Politics program coordinated by the politics department and generously supported by Oberlin alumni Richard and Dorothy Cole. A politics major and one of the few Republican students at Oberlin, I served as an intern with the Ohio Dole-for-President campaign. That was how I met Beth Hansen, formerly director of Dole's midwestern campaign and Voinovich's campaign manager.
This summer, again as a Cole scholar, I worked on the initial phase of the governor's campaign under Hansen's direction. While there were some fun projects, such as helping organize a large fund-raising event in Cincinnati, most of my eight-week internship was spent slogging through mountains of paperwork and making countless contact calls at the campaign headquarters in Ohio's state capital.
What I learned was how long hours, little sleep, and endless attention to detail are involved in setting the foundations for a successful campaign. This is particularly true at the beginning, when it is necessary to conduct the aggressive fund raising that allows the candidate to position himself to take an early lead and keep several steps ahead of the opposition.
As we attempted to set up coalitions of groups to work for the governor in their respective areas, I also learned how vital it is to establish relationships by connecting with others in numerous ways and on different levels.
The most valuable lesson I learned during this internship, however, was not related to political acumen or to raising money. It was that ethics and sound values still exist in the higher echelons of politics.
At a time when most Americans feel alienated from politics and disgruntled with the system, it was invigorating and inspiring to work for and with an officeholder of George Voinovich's stature.
Not only is he an astute politician, but he is also a fine human being: a man who still shines his own shoes before going to bed every night and whose wife still packs his lunch for him before he leaves for work; a devoted husband of 35 years, the father of four and grandfather of one.
He also is a man whose integrity and honesty have never been in question throughout his 30-year involvement in politics, a man who knows that prayer and asking for divine guidance are instrumental in making good decisions.
In 1994, Voinovich took 72 percent of the vote, the highest percentage for an Ohio Republican since 1826. The fact that he won the majority of every ethnic, social, ideological, and gender group cannot be attributed solely to the booming economy. Good economies come and go, but what people want is a leader they can trust and who has the character to do the right thing always.
As a young person just getting involved in politics, seeing George Voinovich in action and getting to know him through his dealings with his associates convinced me that it is still worthwhile to get involved. For that I am truly grateful.--by Arion Petasis '98
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