On Nov. 3, the presidential candidates aren’t the only ones on the ballot. In Pennsylvania, for example, Attorney General and UR alum Josh Shapiro ‘95 is also up for reelection.
A Democrat and the incumbent, Shapiro has been working in government since 1992, when he became the first first-year ever to be elected as the Students’ Association (SA) president at UR.
“I did not set out in college to get involved in student government, or […] to study political science,” Shapiro said. “I was studying pre-med courses. And I actually played on the men’s varsity basketball team.”
But after deciding against pre-med and getting cut from the basketball team, Shapiro decided to try out student government, spending his first year as a senator. That spring, “when they were taking nominations for president, I said ‘you know what, I love this school, I care deeply about these issues […] I’ll give it a shot.’”
On campus, Shapiro was also a Resident Advisor for Susan B. Anthony, Hill Court, and Crosby. He recalled late-night pizza at the Pit and studying in the then-new Simon Business School.
Shapiro first started considering politics during his sophomore year, when he was SA president and taking Political Science courses. At the end of his term, Shapiro left SA to spend part of his junior year interning in Washington, D.C.
“To see things up close and personal [is] really what inspired me to make a career in public service,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro has held a variety of positions on and off Capitol Hill in public office. In 2016, he was elected as the Attorney General, where he describes himself as “the chief law enforcement officer of Pennsylvania.”
“I make sure that the rule of law applies fairly across the board, no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, or who you pray to,” Shapiro said.
As Shapiro sees it, the rule of law isn’t always fairly applied. “I do support the Black Lives Matter movement, […] and I believe we all have to acknowledge the systemic racism that exists in our country today,” he said. “Not just in our criminal justice system, but also in our system of education, commerce, and healthcare, and I think we have to have an ongoing and honest dialogue about that, change our laws to be more fair and just.”
To students looking to get involved in government, and students in general, Shapiro gave the age-old advice of following their passion.
“[Don’t] be obsessive about ‘if I take this class and do that internship and get such-and-such a grade [then] all of the sudden, I’m gonna get job X, Y, or Z — it doesn’t work that way,” he said.
When asked if he had that mindset as a student, Shapiro paused.
“That’s a really fair question […] I don’t know [if] I had that mindset in college, but I did develop it when I got into politics,” he said. “Every step of the way I really did follow my gut, follow my passion, and I made some unconventional career choices.”
“Follow your passion, whatever it is,” he said. “If you follow what’s burning inside you, you’ll be successful.”