Community & Government

Entering Public Service

George W. Bush

Lesson time 23:33 min

Learn what it takes to become an elected official, from fundraising and campaigning to working at the White House. Explore the extreme highs and lows of working in public office.

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Topics include: In this lesson you’ll learn what it takes to become an elected official — from fundraising and campaigning to what it's like to work at the White House. Students get a clear understanding of the slog and glory of working in public office.


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I think somebody running for office must have an optimistic view of life. I will do everything I can to make your life better and improve our country. I think they must have a set of principles that will not change according to the latest Gallup poll. I think, unfortunately-- but this has always been the case in American politics-- that they've got to have a pretty thick hide. They've got to be comfortable with who they are and not let criticism affect them. [MUSIC PLAYING] I'm often asked about what does it take to get into politics, and many times, the person comes in with a preconceived notion that-- how do you start at the top? But politics tends to be a meritocracy, and by that, I mean that if you want to be involved in a campaign, the best thing you can do is to become somebody who makes signs and puts them up, and do the best at that so that when another task is needed, you get called upon. In other words, hard work in the trenches pays off in the long term for politics. For a candidate, there's not a single roadmap, but it's really important to call upon the party structure. People ask me about running, and I say, do you like to eat rubber chicken? Because you're going to spend a lot of time on the rubber chicken banquet circuit. Do you mind going to party caucus meetings and thank people who've been working at the grassroots for a long period of time? Do you mind going to local Lions Clubs meetings and Optimist Clubs meetings in order to just show up and not be on the agenda? In other words, there's a lot of groundwork that has to take place, and a person has to be willing to dedicate the time to become credible. [MUSIC PLAYING] The lifeblood of any campaign is the capacity to raise money. One of the hardest things to do is to call somebody up and say, I'd like money from you please. I got pretty good at it. It takes a while to get used to that. The only way you can raise money is get yourself in front of people and say, I need your help. I'd like for you to donate. And when they do, write them a thank you letter quickly, saying, I can't thank you enough for your donation. Fundraising is difficult for some, but it's necessary because no matter how brilliant you are or no matter how thoughtful you are, unless people are able to determine that through ads and all that, then you'll be just another name-- an obscure name. There's value in doing things in life that you don't want to do, so long as they're constructive. I'm confident people listening to this were like me and didn't really want to go to the child's piano recital, particularly if your child was the last one to play. And so after three hours, your child finally gets up and plays, and it's a proud moment for you. And so you learn how to tolerate sheer drudgery if there's a greater purpose. In my case, watching my daughter play Bach or something like that-- chopsticks. I had watched my dad nearly run out of mon...

About the Instructor

Step inside the Oval Office with the newest instructor in our White House series, President George W. Bush. With insight from former First Lady Laura Bush, the former commander in chief opens up about the tough calls and life lessons that shaped his career. Develop and own a leadership style that’s true to you and learn to lead by connecting personally with everyone in the room.

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