By Kylea Wright – Baltimore, MD

Let me set the stage:  It was August 6 and I was sitting on the couch with a large slice of pizza and a glass of beer. I was full of anxiety, but also a faint hope as I got ready to watch the first GOP debate with my friends. Yes, I was excited for the social gaffes I was sure I would witness, but I was mostly hoping to see Donald Trump’s hair light itself on fire in an attempt to distract the nation from what a misogynistic xenophobic lunatic he truly is.

About halfway through the debate I received an unpleasant shock when Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump a question about General Qassem Soleimani. The issue wasn’t that Donald Trump was clueless as to who Solemani is, but that it was pretty obvious EVERYONE else on stage was too.

You could see the relief wash over their faces as they dodged the hardest question of the night. If you don’t know who General Qassem Soleimani is, I am not trying to shame you (well, not unless you’re running for President of the United States), but you should go Google him. If you refuse to Google someone with that important sounding of a name, get in the game.

One thing I hear supporters of Donald Trump and Ben Carson frequently repeat is they are “tired of politicians.”  I get that – politicians are seen as being out of touch with how citizens live their everyday lives –  but people running to become the leader of the country need to be educated about the job they are going to do. At its core, politics is a profession. I wouldn’t let a plumber perform my pap smear because he did such a good job fixing my sink, and I don’t really want to vote for someone who isn’t educated solely because they seem more honest than a “House of Cards” character. We want trained professionals to fix our sinks – so why wouldn’t we want trained professionals to run our country?

It sucks that politicians often don’t seem trustworthy, intelligent or a lot of other things that we would like them to be, but the only solution I can think of to wade through the political bullcrap is to ensure I am educated on current events and where candidates stand on issues that matter to me. The world is extremely complicated and politicians have agendas. If we don’t learn the facts ourselves, we leave the door open for people to use us or trick us into believing half truths.

And yes, YES, I know you don’t have time to know about everything and everyone, and you probably fell asleep in the one political science class you tried to take, not because you were bored, but just because you are not a superhero and have to sleep sometime. So here, let me help: take five more minutes and read about these three people. They won’t make all politics more manageable, but you have to start somewhere.

General Qasem Soleimani

General Soleimani is a general in Iran’s Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution – the part of Iran’s military specifically in charge of stopping outsiders from messing with Iran’s Islamic System. Since the US invasion of Iraq, Soleimani has gained tons of influence in Iran, which is important to note because he really supports the Syrian government. You might have heard a little about Syria and the 9 million refugees that have fled the country since 2011. Soleimani strongly supports the government they are running from, and is super influential in a government the U.S. is trying to play nice with so they don’t build a nuclear bomb. So yeah, if you are going to be President, it might be nice to at least recognize his name.

Vivek Murthy

You definitely know this guy, even if you think you don’t! He is the current Surgeon General of the United States. Without him you wouldn’t have that reminder on a pack of cigarettes warning that smoking is bad when pregnant. Surgeon Generals are not elected, they are appointed by the President and then confirmed by the Senate. Which means if we vote an evil mastermind (or an idiot) into office, they can appoint someone to this role who could unleash all sorts of misinformation about health and health policy across the country. The Surgeon General gets to tell you how many glasses of milk Americans should drink each day a la your elementary health education, but also focuses on serious health issues such as women’s reproductive health. So far, Murthy has been pretty cool, but slightly inactive as Surgeon General. The largest group that opposes him is the NRA because he says that guns are bad for public health because when you shoot people they tend to die. And in February of this year he made a splash by saying cannabis can be helpful for certain medical conditions and science should determine drug policy in the US.   

Elizabeth MacDonough

She is the first female Parliamentarian of the United State Senate. She is not elected, but appointed, and she tells the Senate when they are and are not following the rules of parliamentary procedure. This means when the Senate wants to do new, and maybe not so legal things (like trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), Ms. MacDonough makes sure the debate follows correct procedure and informs the presiding officer on how to acknowledge certain requests. A lot of the time, Senate Parliamentarian doesn’t often play a major role, but the position is imperative, when, for example, one complicated budget procedure called “reconciliation” might allow Republicans to strip funding from Planned Parenthood or the Affordable Care Act. This can only happen if MacDonough says it is within the rules of the Senate.