Congressman Explains ‘Getting Into Politics’

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, representing California’s 29th District, spoke in the J.W. Smith Student Center Monday on “Getting into Politics,” giving advice to students about getting their voices heard as citizens or for actually becoming an elected official.

The 29th district is a sprawling area that encompasses Glendale, as well as Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, Griffith Park, Monterey Park, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Gabriel and Temple City.

More than 100 students and faculty members filled the student center for this event, sponsored by the Organization of Latinos for Higher Education [OHLE], which was a short biographical speech followed by questions from the audience.

Schiff was an adjunct instructor in GCC’s political science department while serving as a state senator for California’s 21st district, his position before election to the House of Representatives. He is a strong proponent of educational and environmental issues.

Schiff recommends student involvement at all levels of politics, whether that means voting (even for those who usually don’t), working on campaigns, providing grassroot support for bond measures, which often pass by only a small number of votes, to ultimately running for office.

Schiff recommended that students who want to pursue a career in politics “decide what you have a passion to do and then go after it.”

He said that the typical example of political science major followed by law school was no longer the operative model for success, and that his colleagues in the House of Representatives were just as likely to have been accomplished “teachers, athletes, lawyers, doctors, engineers, even a rocket scientist.” The common denominator is that they “are good at what they do.” He added, “There will always be an opportunity down the road to serve.”

Schiff is an outspoken advocate against genocide denial and believes that the United States should condemn the 1915 Armenian genocide regardless of pressure from the Turkish government.

In answer to a question posed during his speech about his proposed Armenian genocide bill, Schiff described adding an amendment to a reauthorization of a State Department bill asking the Historian of the State Department to review the pertinent documents of the United States to the Armenian genocide.

The state department bill was not directly related to the genocide, but “it just happened to be my good fortune that the Turkish Prime Minister was in town-” he recounted, and went on to describe how the political pressure brought to bear by his amendment allowed the bill to be reviewed at a separate hearing. The Dedicated Genocide Resolution passed the committee with a strong bipartisan vote, but until the Speaker of the House allows it to come before Congress, it goes no further.

Although the overall tone of the meeting was positive and upbeat, some of the queries fielded by Schiff questioned his accountability in the Iraq War [he voted to authorize the use of force based on the intelligence reports of weapons of mass destruction but has since changed his position] and on a peculiar note, his feelings about the 1994 parole of Lyndon LaRouche (Schiff was not associated with LaRouche’s conviction or parole, and turned the discussion to globalization and economics).

Schiff is opposed to invading Iran, in favor of increasing funding to schools and believes in immigration reform.

“I believe that the magnitude of the rallies got everyone’s attention,” he said.

He favors the Kennedy-McCain Bill, which allows for immigrants living in the United States to become legal through a six-year application process the “Essential Worker Visa Program” that includes background checks and documented gainful employment, among other requirements, but does not believe that legislation will pass both the senate and the house this year.

“In the past, the United States has been the beneficiary of the brain drain of the rest of the world,” the congressman said. He is concerned that not only is the United States not cultivating scientists and engineers, but that new immigration policies actively discourage the best and brightest of other countries from emigrating.

He also spoke of U.S.-Chinese relations and the importance of cultivating “not only free trade, but fair trade,” citing examples of how Chinese policies keep the entertainment industry from competing on an even playing field.

Students looking for a political internship program will be pleased to hear that there are unpaid positions available at his offices in Pasadena and in Washington, D.C. It may be the perfect way to “get into politics.”