Hi, my name is Tamara and I’m a fourth-year political science student.
I have taken a lot of different courses here at SFU, but I started as a political science major, and I will graduate as one — one day. When I enrolled in political science at SFU, I knew it was not my greatest passion. It wasn’t even my second greatest passion. Those titles are reserved for English and communication, respectively. Nor did I choose to study political science for any promise of money or a career.
I was drawn to politics by the memory of my late grandparents. I know it must sound ridiculous, and sometimes during those late nights when I’m up writing about the Canadian Senate it seems like a ridiculous reason to me too.
My Nana and Grandad died during my adolescence, and I have always felt robbed of so many years with them. But before they were taken from me, they inspired me, they educated me, and they showed how important it was to do good in your community.
Grandad grew up in the foster care system during the Great Depression, after my great-grandmother abandoned him. By the time he was 12, he was working full-time as a farmhand for a small wage. As a teen, he paid a woman to pretend to be his mother and joined the army to fight in the Korean War and WWII. He then came back to Canada, met my Nana, finished his high school diploma, and got a job at a printing press.
Soon after, he had four children and became the president of his local union. Through the union he fought relentlessly for his fellow workers, but his fight didn’t stop there. He went on to help progressives get elected. In the ‘70s, when Tommy Douglas ran for MP in Coquitlam, my Grandad was his campaign manager. And when it came time, he himself ran for city council in Burnaby and became a sitting councillor for four terms.
I picked political science because I wanted to honour my memories of the community leaders I can call Nana and Grandad.
Despite his rough start, and despite not having any good reason to want to give back to a world that had given him so much to be angry about, my Grandad always wanted to make our community better. And so did my Nana. She was in the background of each of Grandad’s campaigns, doing everything from the nitty-gritty campaign tasks to caring for the family at home. She, like many other women supporting their husband’s careers, will not be remembered for her contributions. But I remember — well, I remember the stories at least.
They taught me what it means to influence, and what it means to do good by your home and neighbours. So fast-forward to 2011, when a young and awkward-looking me was applying to SFU. My best grades were always in social studies and English. I loved creative writing and was fascinated by media. But I picked political science and have never looked back because I wanted to honour my memories of the community leaders I can call Nana and Grandad.
Maybe I would have received better grades in a different department. Maybe I would have been on a better career path if I’d chosen a different program. Maybe I would have enjoyed more of my classes in a field that indulged in all my interests.
But in the end, it’s my grandparents I care about. So Nana and Grandad, I don’t know if you are in a place where you can hear me or not, but know that I think of you all the time. I hope I can do some good through public service in our community to make you proud.