by Billy Clouse
The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service hosts events every week in an attempt to get students involved on campus and in local and national politics. This organization, which is headed by Director Mary Bennett, employs students to help facilitate activities and operations.
Cami Matthews, a first-year graduate student from Taylorsville, is the Marketing Director for the organization. Shay Bauman, a senior economics major from Cedar City, is the Internship Coordinator. Jake Richins, a Master of Public Administration candidate from Wanship, is the Student Director.
Get to know these students below.
When did you first get interested in politics?
Cami: I honestly don’t know. Growing up, I was surrounded by one viewpoint, whether that was family, friends, school. Then I started thinking ‘I don’t know if I agree with that.’ It escalated from me doing my own research into now me in the political center trying to help students find their own voices and thoughts.
Shay: I went to a youth leadership conference in Washington D.C. when I was in fifth grade and that was when I first got my interest in politics.
Jake: For me, it was honestly about my sophomore year in college. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and it was shortly after Obama’s first time he ran for president. It was the first time I realized what politics could do.
How have you gotten politically involved?
Cami: The first involvement I had was I helped with a campaign to be on a school board and I helped with a campaign for senate. I worked down here remotely because they were both running in the Salt Lake area. From there, I got more involved with the Leavitt Center, and now it’s been a roller coaster of involvement. I got started with grassroots campaigning.
Shay: I didn’t have a whole lot of involvement before coming to the Leavitt Center. I had interest, but not action. I was the Social Science Sterling Scholar in high school and I ran on the platform that I enjoy learning about politics. Then I got to the Leavitt Center and realized that I really wanted to be more apart of it, and then I served an internship during the legislative session. Just like with Cami, it’s been a roller coaster of involvement. I did the voter registration drive last year with a few other people at the Leavitt Center, and we registered over 400 students.
Jake: I’ve always been a natural-born skeptic, but my first actual involvement was probably about my junior year doing something substantive, and that was helping to represent the Political Science and Criminal Justice department. There was a school senator, and he had representatives in all the various majors and departments. I worked with the SUU student senate and it was similar to lobbying, I guess, but on a much smaller scale. We were trying to do some renovations for the mock court room in the General Classroom building. Shortly after, I applied for the Leavitt Center and served an internship in Washington D.C.
What issues are you most passionate about?
Cami: One of my biggest is LGBTQ rights, marriage equality and anything that falls under that. I don’t know how you categorize this, but I’m also passionate about getting all voices heard. Being in Utah and leaning left, I felt like I didn’t have a voice. It was like ‘Oh, here’s this girl, let her speak in the corner and she’ll be fine.’ I like when anyone, whether they’re right in a left majority or vice versa, — I like when people have a chance to speak and a chance to get involved no matter their affiliation.
Shay: I went to the Utah Intercollegiate Legislature last year and the first thing that they asked all of us was ‘What is one political issue that you would be willing to go to the grave for,’ and my answer was, and still is, women’s reproductive rights. That one is my main get-me-going-and-I-won’t-stop issue. Secondly, LGBTQ rights, and thirdly — and this one is more recent with our leadership in the United States — climate change because people are all about denying it and I will always stand up and fight that it’s a real issue.
Jake: I am extremely passionate about public lands. The Antiquities Act with the president being able to unilaterally designate a national monument and how big or how small that can be is kind of up to them. I think that’s an executive privilege that has gone on far too long without many amendments or changes to it. Number two is wildlife management, specifically wolf management. It’s not necessarily a huge mess, but I grew up in a farming community and I felt farmers sometimes have their concerns get overlooked by bigger voices and bigger lobbying firms. I also care about land management on our federal lands. I just feel like they’re not necessarily being managed properly, but I know that they have their hands tied behind their backs because it’s connected to how much money they have.
If you could ask the President one question, what would it be?
Cami: Who did you sit down with that told you exactly what to do? He honestly ran a chaotic, but beautiful campaign. Call it a conspiracy, but I want to know who is the real mastermind behind the campaign.
Shay: I honestly don’t really have anything to say to him. From the start, I haven’t supported him. He’s the president and whatever, but I personally don’t agree with a lot of his policies so I don’t have any questions for him.
Jake: How specifically does he plan on getting jobs back from companies that have left. Not just ‘We’re going to get them back through regulation.” I want to know specifics of how that’s going to affect the economy.
What is your political affiliation and the biggest misconception about it?
Cami: I am a Democrat, and I think the biggest misconception is that we’re not willing to find a common ground or a middle solution, if it’s possible. I feel that in Utah where it is majority Republican, it’s like, ‘Here are the Democrats, they have their signs, they’re going to go picket — let them do their thing because they won’t listen to us, but we make the rules in the end. I feel that the Democrats are not given a fair chance to actually sit down and come to a solution.
Shay: I’m a Democrat, and I feel the same way. I feel that a lot of Democrats and leaders are willing to work with what we have, but the dialogue is so polarized that it doesn’t happen.
Jake: Technically, I’m an independent, but I do actually consider myself an Anarchist. I would say the biggest misconception is that everyone thinks that Anarchists are about chaos and violence, and that’s not it at all. There have been bad apples that have done it in that name. Traditional Anarchists, and specifically Free-Market Anarchists, they don’t believe in using force except in defense, and they don’t believe in exerting things on other people. It’s very much about individuals and respecting them as individuals.
Who is your political idol?
Cami: I enjoy the queen of England for the pure fact that she can have that status and not do a single thing, but as far as idols go, I like Justin Trudeau of Canada. I just like the way he interacts, and maybe it’s because I’m getting it through social media and of course that’s PR. Through his speeches and what I’ve seen, he either has a really great campaign manager or he truly is caring and looks out for a significantly smaller country than the U.S., but an entire country in a way someone should as a leader.
Shay: Nelson Mandela. He inspired peace for so many in that region and because of his circumstances as well. He can be admired for rising above that and creating a greater good.
Jake: I’ve always been a fan of Teddy Roosevelt because of his influence on environment, but up to modern times, he’s younger and not well-known, but I like Bruce Westerman from Arkansas. I got to see him in-person and watch him work in Congress in the committees. He really is willing to listen and he lets people know ‘Here’s what I care about. Let’s see what you care about and how we can find a compromise.’
What’s the strangest experience you’ve had with the Leavitt Center?
Cami: We had Congressman Stewart and his opponent, and they had to debate in the Sterling Church Auditorium. I was brand new with the Leavitt Center, and they needed people to fill in these three spots that were directly behind the moderator. This was a broadcasted event, and the room was packed — it was basically ticket-only. It was a very cool opportunity, but it got to the point that the two other people I was with from the Leavitt Center, we were dead-center and we had no idea that if the camera was not on the candidates, it was on us and we were on TV. I look apparently very angry when I was just sitting there. The woman next to me fell asleep and the man next to her was just fidgety and wouldn’t stop moving. The three of us, within our families and the Leavitt Center, were made fun of for probably a good year.
Shay: I’m the Internship Coordinator, and I interviewed this kid for an internship, and I swear his only goal was to convince me not to give him an internship. He basically talked crap on himself the whole time, so that was really weird to me. The interview is supposed to talk yourself up. Be confident and convince people to give you the job.
Jake: There was a man who came through and he was trying to figure out how he could get a petition going to get the FBI to stop chipping people. To this day, I’m still not exactly sure what he meant. Maybe it’s a giant government conspiracy and the FBI has been chipping people for a long time, and this is the one guy that got past the brainwashing. He wasn’t even intense, he was just legitimately concerned about starting a petition to send back to his congressman.
Meet the Executive Council, as well as other Leavitt Center employees, at Pizza and Politics tomorrow at noon in the Leavitt Center.