At some point in your pageant experience, you are going to be asked questions about politics. A contestant’s level of ignorance (the condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed) is quickly revealed based on her answers about general politics and government.
Having been an elected member of council, former mayor of my community, and a current school board member, I have learned a lot about politics in the past 13 years. I’m not an expert, but I know and understand how government works. I also know where to go and what to do if I feel a social ill needs to be changed. The system no longer intimidates me nor do the people holding elected offices. I respect their authority; but I am not intimidated as I once was in my youth.
I understand why people think it is complicated and don’t want to get involved. Growing up I had no interest in politics. I didn’t understand politics, I had no idea of how the governing process affected me, and it wasn’t a topic talked about in my home. Plus, I always had the impression that it was a “guy” thing. Oh my, I shudder at even saying that.
The switch came almost 15 years ago when a housing development issue happened in my town and I needed to get involved. There will come a time in your live when something will happen to you, your family or community where you will need to understand how our government works in order to have something corrected. Start now by educating yourself on the basics and work your way up.
The way to educate yourself is to become familiar with the basic vocabulary used in politics and certain fundamental laws in your state.
Become very familiar with the Sunshine Law, or Open Meetings and Public Records Act, within your state- just search those words online. This law explains how meetings are open to the public, how to request public records, and other very important topics regarding meetings and records. Violation of this law may render a law invalid along with other legal ramifications. Also check with your state Municipal League for educational materials and Google your state’s Codified Law, or Revised Code. Again, I am not an attorney but rather a very informed citizen and former public official.
It’s important to note that government was set up with a system of checks and balances so no one branch of government goes on an ego trip thinking they have more power than they actually do…LOL.
All branches are intended to be of equal importance. The different governing powers are split up amongst the three branches- executive, legislative and judicial.
The national level of our legislative body is called Congress and is made up of the House of Representative (called Congressmen) and the Senate (called Senators). Both make laws.
Our country is politically divided and subdivided. Realize that every division and subdivision has its own set of laws. Don’t assume what is law in one state or town is going to be the same in another. I’m going to use Ohio as an example to illustrate the dividing. Below is a photo of how Ohio is divided into the 88 counties.
States are divided into counties. Counties are divided into townships. Within townships, there are incorporated municipalities of towns and cities, and rural farmland areas which are unincorporated. Every piece of land in the United States falls under someone’s authority. It’s important for you to know which governing authorities control the law making processes where you live and provide services to you. Each level of government is responsible for different types of services and have specific law making authority. This is a photo of how Pickaway County is divided into the fifteen townships.
In a township, the Board of Trustees is the governing body. This would include the rural, farming areas and the towns and cities within the township. So if the your farm road needs more gravel or pavement, that is an issue for your Trustees.
In municipalities, you’ll either be a town or village based on the population. Towns and villages have smaller populations. Every state has a different scale but towns and villages generally have populations under 5000 people. Cities are usually over 5000 people. There are different governing laws for towns/villages than for cities, so you have to know which one your municipality is.
Here is a very general explanation of the different levels of government and what they do.
- Legislative Branch - Congress which is made up of the House and the Senate. They make the laws.
- Judicial Branch - Supreme Court Judges interpret the meaning of the constitution and national laws.
- Executive Branch - The President is the head of the executive branch and puts the laws passed by Congress into action and enforces them. He does this will the help of his cabinet, which the President selects. Some positions need the approval of Congress.
- Legislative Branch - The Legislature is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. They make the laws.
- Judicial Branch - State Supreme Court Judges interprets the meaning of the state laws.
- Executive - The Governor is the head of the executive branch at the state level. He puts the laws passed by the legislature into action and enforces them. He does this will the help of his cabinet.
- The County Commissioners are the governing body for the county.
- Judicial Branch - The county courts interpret county wide laws.
- The Board of Trustees govern within the township.
- Legislative Branch - The Council makes the laws within a town or city.
- Executive Branch – The Mayor is the head of the local executive branch and the responsibilities are to put the ordinances (local laws) passed by the council into action and enforce them.
- Judicial Branch - Mayor’s Court interprets and upholds local ordinances (laws).
So why is it important to understand the division of power in our government? Because every time I’m judging a pageant and a contestant answers the question “If I were President (or insert the word Governor, or Mayor) of my area, I would make a law to …” I role my eyes because these offices do not make the law. Same goes if they say they want to be a judge because they feel it’s important to make laws to keep the criminals off the streets. Sigh… honorable intention, but judges DO NOT make laws, they interpret the meaning of the laws.
And that concludes my politics 101 class for today. I hope that helps. Maybe I should have done a clever You Tube clip in the theme of Schoolhouse Rock to share my thoughts…LOL. Hmmm, now there’s a thought.
The ability to answer questions about you, your purpose, current events, and controversial topics in a clear way is an important life skill. The more you practice, the better you will get. This handy interview card is a great way to practice with a partner or to use by yourself.
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Rhonda Shappert is an expert pageant coach, an iPEC Certified Professional Coach, an Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner, and an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF).
She created Winning Through Pageantry® to partner with pageant contestants and their support people to provide complete pageant preparation, achieve winning results in life through pageantry, and to Succeed From The Inside Out®.
She has over 30 years experience in the pageantry world as a contestant, judge, emcee, staff member, mother of daughters who compete, Mrs. Ohio America 2005, and has held multiple titles at the local, state and national levels.
Rhonda graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors degree in Musical Theater from The Ohio State University and has performed on stage in 15 countries on the Asian, European and American continents. This mother of three home educates their children and has been married 22 years to her husband Stephen, is the former mayor of her community, and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Ohio Virtual Academy. She and her husband perform original contemporary Christian music. For more information on Rhonda, visit www.WinningThroughPageantry.com .