Why policy matters – even to those seemingly outside of its reach

Charlotte Jonkman

Charlotte Jonkman

My name is Charlotte Jonkman and I am one of the new interns here at the League. Introductions have never been easy for me – primarily because my path to this point in life has been relatively uneventful. I grew up in Jenison, Michigan with my parents and two older brothers, along with my entire extended family less than a half hour’s drive away. I attended private school from preschool through high school and chose to continue that path, enrolling in Baylor University where I am now one semester away from receiving my bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Though the term “boring” often comes to mind when I reflect on the past 20 years, I have come to appreciate that “privileged” might serve as a more apt descriptor.

Recognition of that privilege served as the catalyst for my interest in public policy. I still remember a 10th grade teacher asking the class how often our lives interacted with the government. Some students cited their trips to the DMV to receive their driver’s licenses or the tax forms they’d filed due to recently-acquired first jobs—encounters that occur annually, at most. The majority of us were surprised when our teacher went on to explain how government impacts our lives at every turn, from the electricity powering the classroom lights to the clean water flowing from nearby drinking fountains to the (unrelentingly pothole-filled) roads we’d driven to school.

students taking testLooking back now, I know that we were lucky to be surprised. Children attending underfunded schools or relying on government assistance to put food on their plates feel the presence of public policy in their lives far more than I ever did. That realization–that the world is a whole lot bigger and more complex than my little corner of West Michigan—drove me to become more engaged in the news and, from there, to desire a better understanding of the policies everyone seemed to have such strong opinion about.

Since then, my initial interest has grown into a passion for utilizing the daily interaction between citizens and government to improve the lives of those who cannot claim the privilege of a mundane childhood. Specifically, I am passionate about providing economic opportunity through the protection of labor rights and the expansion of access to healthcare. In these policy areas and others, I have learned a lot over the past few years. Through my university classes, I have gained knowledge in political history and the workings of government. I continue to expand my understanding of public policy through independent reading and, admittedly, countless hours spent listening to political and historical podcasts. Unfortunately, my ever-growing Netflix queue will have to wait until “Slow Burn” has taught me all there is to know about Watergate and the New York Times’ “The Daily” has updated me on the news of the day.

While, like most people, the mere mention of annual budget negotiations or subcommittee meetings does not necessarily get my blood pumping, the benefit that seemingly miniscule changes in public policies might bring to thousands of lives drives me to continue learning and growing and is what led me to the League. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of an organization that shares my focus on the human impact of public policy and works to make that impact a positive one. And I am excited to spend the summer learning from and working with the many committed and passionate individuals here at the League.

— Charlotte Jonkman