A Country for the People, by the People

The witnesses that testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee, through their courage and honesty, bolstered my passion for public service.

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For the third time in American history, a president has been impeached. The House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on December 18, 2019. Though the impeachment had been long-sought by Democrats, that hope was often at odds with the historical precedent of what constitutes impeachable offenses. Trump is extremely unpopular, but that is not grounds for impeachment. However, as it played out, the impeachment was completely within the bounds of the law. The facts were heavily investigated by the House Judiciary Committee, adding to the legitimacy of the impeachment. Led by Chairman Adam Schiff, the Committee called several credible witnesses (as well as less credible witnesses such as Gordon Sondland) in order to build a case for impeachment and present it to the people. But beyond its historical and political significance, the impeachment hearings bolstered a personal conviction I had.

For a very long time, I have been extremely passionate about politics. There is a video on YouTube from 2008 of me attempting to describe the 2008 Democratic primaries, and I closely followed the 2012 and 2016 general elections. As I’ve grown up, that interest has turned into more of a passion. I disproportionately consume politically centered content, and more importantly, I've applied disproportionately to public service-based programs. Overall, politics has weighed heavily on my life for a long as I can remember.

Thus, the impeachment hearings were an obvious attraction for me. A historical event that had yet to occur in my lifetime was a must-watch for anyone with as much of an interest in politics as me. To my suprise, the major takeaway from the hearings was not the actions of the President or the story that Congressman Schiff was telling, but the people that he called upon to tell them. The majority of the people that testified were non-partisan career officials who have spent their lives and careers serving the American people and their interests. Generally, their testimonies were based in fact and their experiences in their decades of service. In a political landscape that is commonly degraded for its dishonesty, it was very comforting to see genuine civil servants display the good work that they and their colleagues do.

One of the major witnesses called was the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. Volker was one of the first to testify behind closed doors, and he supplied evidence that kick-started the thrust of the investigation. He worked his way through the CIA, the State Department, and the National Security Council before making his way into the envoy position. Beyond showing a dedication for over 30 years to the work he does, he also showed a level of humility not often cited in politics. He admitted the mistake he had made—allowing for an investigation into clearly false allegations regarding Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden and a Ukranian company—and the massive implications that it may have had, saying, "In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections." To admit such a grave mistake in such an important setting is no easy task, and it helped me to see the honesty and clarity that can and should be displayed in the political realm.

Another outstanding testimony came from former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. She has served the U.S. for 30 years and was the Ukraine Ambassador under both President Obama and President Trump. However, she was removed from her post by President Trump for “not being loyal.” She was falsely accused of leaking a “do-not-prosecute” list to Ukranian officials, an accusation based on the fact that she had been concerned by possible corruption regarding Ukraine. Her stand in the face of a now-impeached President was admirable and carried over into her testimony. When the President attacked her in a tweet during her testimony, she acted calmly and honestly, saying, “I mean, I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating.” To have such courage in the face of a presidential attack is unbelievable and inspiring, especially for someone who may want to follow in her steps.

Fiona Hill, former National Security Council member and White House expert on Ukraine, was a witness to all of what happened, from the Ukrainian issues to the treatment of Yovanovitch. When she was called in front of the Judiciary Committee, she gave a notably passionate testimony. The testimony prompted CNN writer Maeve Reston to write an article titled “Fiona Hill left a legacy for angry women during impeachment hearing.” To show that kind of honesty and vulnerability on such a major stage is inspiring. She also did something oft-missing in politics: she told the honest, unforgiving truth. She dispelled common conspiracy theories and looked to set the story straight. Hill spoke truth to power, an action that cannot be ignored.

Though Volker, Yovanovitch, and Hill all helped to tell a story that impeached the President, they also inspired me in a way I was not expecting. They exemplified what is good in politics, something extremely reaffirming for someone that is hopeful to enter that world. And as mentioned before, they did it in the face of President Trump, who has the ability to completely tarnish careers. To me, this adds a level of bravery in the face of a terrifying truth: we are living in a world where disagreeing with the president is an offense against him. In a political climate as volatile and dangerous as the one we live in, to see the passion and honesty with which the witnesses spoke bolstered my desire to follow their rule and serve.

That level of virtue was what overwhelmingly inspired me. It showed me that, though there are many disappointing aspects of politics nowadays, there is a sensible path to being involved with it and not losing your moral compass. The witnesses exemplified the best of the field, showing what could be in the face of what we are used to and often believe politics to be. They cared about what they were saying, well aware of the gravity of the things they were discussing. For a teenager, they succeeded in both contributing to impeaching the president and giving me a way to follow in their footsteps.