Jennifer Duncan and Ling Chan want to be public servants, but they were worried there would be no work in the government envisioned by House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
But after questioning Gingrich themselves Monday, the Syracuse University graduate students were feeling better about their future - even if it doesn't include a job with the federal government.The nation's next generation of public servants will likely find their calling in state and local governments and in nongovernmental areas, Gingrich said during a guest classroom appearance at Syracuse's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
"It's exciting to hear him talk like that because I want to go into public life, but my personal interest is not in politics. I am interested in the nonprofit sector," said Duncan, of Kansas City, Mo.
Chan also found Gingrich's answers satisfying.
"I was encouraged to know that myself and my classmates are on the right track in pursuing public service in our own different way as opposed to the traditional view that public service had to be a federal government job," said Chan, of Minneapolis.
Speaking to a select group of 52 Maxwell School students, and via satellite to students at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin, Gingrich said public service would have a new look under a revamped federal government.
"If you remember that public service is not necessarily government service, there are huge career opportunities, many of which you need to invent and you need to be entrepreneurial about," he said.
"Public service is finding a way to serve your community, which may or may not be private, or non-profit, or purely on your own, or engaging in a career bureaucratic structure," Gingrich said.
Gingrich, a former history professor, fielded questions from students at the two schools for nearly an hour and outlined his plans for a decentralized federal government that takes a more entrepreneurial and professional approach.
"It is not like we have this utopian federal system that works perfectly and we are taking a giant risk with it," Gingrich said.
He said he envisions a government that would be more responsive, more effective and closer to the people in need of help.
Under Gingrich's system, taxes would be lowered, the bureaucracy reduced and many federal responsibilities would be shifted to the states. New public service opportunities would be found at the local level and in nongovernmental areas, he said.