Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service

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The ASU College of Public Service & Community Solutions will be home to the new Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service. Congressman Ed Pastor and Jonathan Koppell, Dean of ASU’s College of Public Service & Community Solutions, will talk about the new center.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you for joining us. Last year, Arizona congressman Ed Pastor, the first Hispanic from Arizona elected to congress and the senior member of Arizona's congressional delegation, retired after 23 years in Washington. He continues to be a role model for students pursuing careers in public service. Now, the ASU College of Public Programs will be the new home to the Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service. Joining me to talk more about the new center is congressman Ed Pastor. Also here is Jonathan Koppell, dean of ASU's College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us this evening.

JOSE CARDENAS: Congressman, you've always seemed to enjoy your job. And I don't mean to suggest that you weren't happy doing it but you do seem to be pretty relaxed right now. Can you give us just a quick report before we get to the meat of the interview on life after Washington?

ED PASTOR: It's great. I don't have to get on the plane, I don't have to watch the weather channel, I don't have to worry about the weather in D.C. or other cities. And so it's great. January 6th, it was eight below in D.C. and it was 78 here.

JOSE CARDENAS: Is there anything you miss?

ED PASTOR: Not really. Probably I enjoy what I'm doing and I really don't miss anything. I mean, the flights were something I was doing and I don't have to do that anymore. I haven't been to the airport in six months. That tells you what I'm doing.

JOSE CARDENAS: You don't miss that life but you're now involved in an effort to encourage young people to get involved in politics.

ED PASTOR: Yes, I am.

JOSE CARDENAS: Tell us about that. Why?

ED PASTOR: Well, I believe that it's important, while students are at the university, to be able to engage in the policy making, be able to see what policy makers are doing. Policies that will affect their careers and their lives and also to engage in the political process, because this democracy needs to have people engaged. And so I thought that working with dean Koppell and the school of public service that we could start a center that would help the students learn how to engage and have them participate in policy making and politics.

JOSE CARDENAS: And dean, before we get into the meat of what this center will actually do, how did this come about from ASU's perspective?

JONATHAN KOPPELL: So this is something that we've wanted to do for some time. You have to have complementary to the classroom learning opportunities for students to engage in the real rumble of politics and what does it mean to run a campaign? What does it mean to bring people together from different opinions and different backgrounds and forge a solution? And the only way you can really understand that is to get the students involved and to sit down with people like Congressman pastor and say how do you get things done? How do you make your neighborhoods safer? How do you get people jobs? How do you make programs run more efficiently? What we didn't have was the right inspirational character in some sense to build our center around, and so when Congressman Pastor announced his retirement, it seemed natural to have a figure that represented everything that a public figure should be in our state, it's not about partisanship, putting up negative ads, it's about finding solutions to our problems. That was the right person to inspire young Arizonans to get involved in politics and say oh, this is a way I can make a difference.

JOSE CARDENAS: The Congressman has a wonderful reputation in Arizona and Washington, well respected by people from both sides of the aisle and generally politicians have a poor image and rank pretty low. How do you get students interested in politics when politics, so many of the young people seem to say I don't want anything to do with it?

JONATHAN KOPPELL: I think part of the problem is when we talk about politics, we talk about all of the most unsavory elements. When we talk about campaigns and elections, we treat it as a horse race. Who's ahead today, who raised more money, who's up, who's down. We pay relatively little attention to actually the substance of what these people do once they're in office, and even when we get into substance, it's who's voting on this and who's voting on that? I would argue that many of the ways in which Congressman pastor has made a huge difference in the lives of Arizonans has nothing to do with the vote that heed cast on this, that or the other thing but it's how he connected important constituents with the services that they need. It's about how he brought together different interests in Arizona and got them working together instead of against one another. That's things that people in politics do, that's a way of working to create change through political and governmental structures that most people never hear about. So part of the way to overcome the cynicism and the negativism is to get the students exposed to exactly what people do in political office that does make a difference. If you ask young people today, they would say I want to make a difference but politics, that's not about -- I'm going to work for a nonprofit. There's nothing wrong with that but they don't even understand how a Congressman makes a difference in the world. They need to talk to Congressman Pastor among others and understand what he's done and how he used his office effectively. If they don't have that direct engagement and they rely no offense just on television, they'll never understand it. That's why you've got to create this direct connection and that's what the center is about.

JOSE CARDENAS: Our show is an exception to your last item.

JONATHAN KOPPELL: Of course.

JOSE CARDENAS: But Congressman you have this conversation that the dean is talking about. What are you telling these kids?

ED PASTOR: Well, it's not going to be me only. I think it's going to be a spectrum of people. It's opportunities for them to have internships. It's going to be an opportunity for them to hear speakers from different levels of government and policy makers. It will be -- attending seminars, so it will be a resource so that students can participate and be able to find out what is happening around them as they learn about a career. What's happening around them that the policy makers are doing in changing laws or making policy that's going to affect their career, especially in an area that they are studying for? And so I want them, the students, to be able to get as many resources, different people, the seminars, internships, different experiences, so when they graduate, they have a better understanding of what policies have affected their careers, what policies are going to affect their careers and they have a better understanding. And hopefully, also, that they may decide to get involved in the political process because they want to make a difference.

JOSE CARDENAS: We talked off camera and you gave a real close to home example of how students might be able to influence politics or at least get involved on something that affects people here in Arizona.

ED PASTOR: Sure. Recently, the director of Morrison institute talked about the legislature now has cut TANF to one year, aid to needy families. The program was a five-year program, now it's cut to one year. Well, you have students that are in the school of social work. Obviously, they're going to be working with people who are in need of these programs. Well, I think it would be very interesting for the students to be able to hear from the policy makers, people at the state legislature, to tell them and inform them of why this policy came about. What were the reasons? And also, the students may be able to hear from people who are going to be affected, people who work in the field, social workers that work in the field, so that they know what this change in the policy, what effect it's going to have. And so it allows a student today to say hey, they've changed a policy that I'm going to be involved in this kind of work, and this is going to be the cause and effect of what has happened.

JOSE CARDENAS: So dean, this center will be one of a number of centers at very prestigious schools and there's some collaboration that goes on. Explain that.

JONATHAN KOPPELL: So I think we've got a lot of centers that are about doing research and working with organizations in the community to directly exchange in derivation of solutions. And you know this broad spectrum, everything from dealing with issues of community safety and criminology faculty, working with police departments around the valley. For example, figuring out how to use body cameras to affect police behavior. This is going to be something that's complementary to those centers because what this addresses is how you get the engagement at the political level of these policies, of these policy debates. So let me give a good example. We recently launched in the college actually as part of the Morrison institute, the Kyl center on water policy. Well, I've had John Kyl in my class talking with students about how he as a senator and as a member of the house, and in other capacities in public service. Played a role in shaping the water policy of the state of Arizona. And the students got to hear from him the difference that one individual made in shaping that policy. Now, that's critical in terms of the shape of our state today. Why do we have water and California is running out? Because of the political process that he and many other elected officials engaged in and used politics to reach a compromise and, you know, and the Congressman knows it's a complicated thing. You've got mining interests, you've got agricultural interests, you've got tribal interests, it all had to be negotiated and the students have to understand what it means to be in politics and how politics is part of the policy making process. If we treat it only as an academic subject, that would get loss and it would seem like it's an academic exercise. Politics is part of policy making, and that has to be brought in, as well. And so this center is very complementary to our more academic centers, even those that are very engaged in finding real solutions, because this introduces that political dimension and shows it's not a dirty word. It's part of how we've gotten things done in this country for over years.

JOSE CARDENAS: And there are other centers like it at other universities is my understanding that you'll be having some collaborations with?

JONATHAN KOPPELL: Absolutely, that's one of the aspects of this that's most exciting. So the Pastor Center is joining a network that's been organized by Harvard's Institute of Politics and similar centers at universities around the country. And so at the University of Kansas, there's a Bob Dole Center For Public Service. There's an Eagleton center at Rutgers, and so on and so forth and all of them have a similar mission to inspire young people into service. And so one of the benefits of ASU being part of this network is that ASU students and this has already been happening will interact with other public service-minded students from around the country. It's worth noting, and I think this is an exciting aspect of the center, that the Pastor Center is the first of these centers that's not named after a white male politician. And so I actually think it's an interesting -- it's an interesting coming of age of Latino participation in politics, that the Pastor Center now joins this other sort of pantheon of influential political leaders in America.

JOSE CARDENAS: And I think it's also worth noting as you commented to me before on the set, you yourself participated in something like this when you were in college?

JONATHAN KOPPELL: I was active at the institute of politics and I experienced first-hand this sort of engagement with senators and governors and actually international leaders and it was incredibly influential to me and I saw how many of my classmates followed that path. And it's eye opening because you say, wait a second, it's an interesting thing. Many people say well, you get to interact with all these great leaders and men and women who are shaping the universe and all this sort of stuff. That's nice but actually one of the most important things is that you sit down and you're having dinner with a Congressman or a senator or president of France or whatever and you realize oh, just a guy. I could do that. Right? This guy was just a kid growing up in Miami, and now, he's this important member of Congress, if he could do that, why couldn't I do that? And the answer is there's no reason you couldn't do that. That's the point. It's not to create distance. It's to show this is a way you can make a difference, any kid in Arizona, if they want to make a difference in their community, they could follow in the Congressman's footsteps. It's hard work, it's not easy, but they could do it. And that's part of the point.

JOSE CARDENAS: Congressman, the last word for you. And if you don't mind, quickly your thoughts on this Congress, the first one you've not participated in for some time? They seem with the Republicans in control of both houses to actually be getting something done. Some of them including programs -- your assessment?

ED PASTOR: It's interesting because when it first started, I thought John Boehner was going to have problems with conservatives but in some issues, he's reached out to the Democrats back when they had to deal with the homeland security, the funding of homeland security. Basically, they reached out to the Democrats and got it funded. So it's interesting that there's some bipartisanship that's worked. The trade promotion that the president wanted, TAA was a bipartisan bill and as I understand, they're going through the appropriation process, both the house and the Senate. So it's interesting that where John Boehner has needed, he's reached out to the Democrats and been able to pass some legislation.

JOSE CARDENAS: So maybe some lessons for you all to talk about?

ED PASTOR: The answer is yes, because politics is about people. And so if you get people engaged and you get people communicating, then you'll have political action and you'll have solutions to the problems that we face as a country.

JOSE CARDENAS: Which is what the center is all about, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

JONATHAN KOPPELL: Thank you very much.

ED PASTOR: Thank you.

Ed Pastor:Congressman;Jonathan Koppell:Dean of ASU's College of Public Service & Community Solutions

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