Why I Chose Policy Over Politics

Editor’s Note: Luke Derheim is a political science major at Saginaw Valley State University and an intern at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Saginaw Valley State University, I took the opportunity to work as an intern in the offices of two different state lawmakers.

It was an eventful summer, featuring high-stakes political battles over Michigan infrastructure as well as dramatic scandals that ended several careers. I learned more that summer about politics and lawmaking than I have learned in my three years of college. I also made solid friendships that cross a vast political spectrum. Most of the people who know me — myself included — expected me to go back to that job the following summer.

But I didn’t, and I don’t intend to in the future.

Why? Why work at a public policy think tank like the Mackinac Center instead of being in the middle of the political world in Lansing?

My reasons are very simple. The most important one is that I want to find somewhere to work where I can contribute 100 percent to the mission 100 percent of the time and never have to ignore my own convictions to pursue a mission that is not my own.

Fortunately, a professor who is a mentor of mine suggested that I look into the Mackinac Center, where I’ve found a mission for freedom and opportunity that matches my values.

I admit that, at first, part of my motivation in taking a job as a summer intern at the Mackinac Center last year was that, unlike my legislative job, it paid. I also knew that completing various internships looks good on a resume.

But even after that internship was over, I stayed on at the Mackinac Center, working here on Fridays through the school year. I came back for a second summer because I realized I had found the kind of place I was looking for. Politicians come and go, and only once in a blue moon do I find one I can believe in. I’m not interested in working in politics in Lansing if it means an endless round of choosing which values I want to sacrifice.

At the Mackinac Center, I know that whatever changes happen, the mission will not be one of them.

I also know that internships like mine are only possible because of the generous support of Mackinac Center donors. Thank you for making a difference in my life and the lives of my fellow interns. We really do appreciate it.