The Summer I Found My Answer

“Why do you want to work in government? It’s too bureaucratic, it’s inefficient, and you could be working somewhere else for more money.” This sentiment is not a new one. I have heard this from countless family members, friends, and even teachers/mentors. My biggest issue with that question and cynical perspective is not that people always present it, it is at times I have found myself almost believing it. Almost. Although I have tentatively responded to this question before, after seeing government in action this summer, I have found my definitive answer.

I was recently in a meeting regarding transportation issues and Executive Order B-18-12 where I felt the action items seemed ambitious. I wasn’t sure how we were going to accomplish it all. When I voiced my concerns to one of my supervisors he said, “We can do anything we want.” At first I thought this was just hopeful confidence. But after he explained the process of how we could accomplish these goals through large scale coordination, meetings with key players, and smart planning, I realized we could actually accomplish the daunting task ahead.

It was moments like this one that made me realize that this tenacity, ambition, and bravery in the face of seemingly futile situations is what makes our government so groundbreaking. Yes we bicker and yes it is a slow process. But, the California government is made up of people who are willing to challenge precedents and do things that no other state has done before. As a state, we can be provocative. We are relentless. We always think we’re right. But, this gumption is what makes California the trailblazer for the nation. And at the heart of it all, California is this way because of its government and the people who serve it.

Those that have a desire to work in the California government all want the same thing. They have this passion to do all they can to help their cause and make California a better place. For me, it is working on climate change policy while for others it could be education reform or health care access. Whatever it may be, people here will fight for their cause no matter the institutional or cultural pushback. Many scoff and call these advocates naïve for their optimism. But I’ve come to realize it is not naiveté these dreamers have, but full understanding of the challenges ahead and the courage to try anyway.

So why do I want to work in government? Because I want to strive to be like these people. I want to constantly push myself to do things no one believes can be done and be inspired by others while doing it. One of the best ways to do both is by working in the California government. So to all the nay-sayers that try to constantly suppress my ambition and preach their cynicism, I finally have my answer. The next time someone asks me “Why bother? You’re too late. You can’t change anything.” I will think of all those I have met and had the pleasure of working with this summer, remember their courage, and simply say, “Watch me.”

Carli Yoro is a UC Berkeley senior studying environmental economics and policy. She is interning at the California Environmental Protection Agency as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.