“We All Have a Responsibility to Do Our Part”: Interview with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro

In 2016, Josh Shapiro was elected to serve as Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This past November, he was re-elected to serve another four years. As Attorney General, Shapiro, a Democrat,  serves as a lawyer for the commonwealth while protecting the rights of Pennsylvanians every day. He has also been active in countering unproven allegations by the Trump administration that voting in the key battleground state was tainted by fraud. Fresh Ink for Teens interviewed the Attorney General over the phone about his career and how his Jewish values play a role in his job.

Ada Perlman: Tell me a little bit about how you got into politics.

Josh Shapiro: I grew up in Philadelphia and attended Akiba [Hebrew Academy], which is now called Barrack Hebrew Academy. There, I was raised with the values of tikkun olam that continue into my career today. I realized I wanted to help people and I could do that through public service. Right after college, I worked on Capitol Hill but soon realized that I wanted to serve my own community, so I came back to Pennsylvania where I served in the state legislature and then as Montgomery County [Board of Commissioners] Chairman. In my time as Attorney General, I’ve exposed corruption in the Roman Catholic Church that led to the abuse of thousands of children, and I’ve negotiated the battles between Highmark and UPMC [two health insurance plans] to guarantee that all Pennsylvanians have access to healthcare. It’s these cases that are so gratifying because I get to help others and set an example for the rest of the nation. 

AP: As someone who has been educated in a Jewish environment for most of your childhood, are there any specific values that you hold fast to in your career? Ruth Bader Ginsburg often quoted “Justice, justice shall you pursue”; is there a quote from Tanach or Talmud that you live by?

JS: Throughout my career, my religious teachings have grounded me and given me a sense of purpose. One quote that I talk a lot about in religious and non-religious settings is from Pirkei Avot. It states, “No one is obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to refrain from it.” To me, this quote says that we all have a responsibility to do our part as citizens and community members. I am able to follow through with this responsibility every day as a public servant for Pennsylvanians. 

AP: Are there any politicians you look up to?

JS: I wouldn’t say I look up to one specific politician but I do try to emulate the best parts of different people serving our country. I try to better myself every day in order to make our communities safer and protect my constituents’ rights in a meaningful and long-lasting way.

AP: Right now, you’ve been getting a lot of news coverage surrounding the 2020 Election results. President Trump is accusing Pennsylvania as well as many other states of voter fraud. What made you confident that the election in Pennsylvania was carried out without voter fraud?

JS: As the chief law enforcement officer of the state, I have prosecuted people for voter fraud in the past. These cases usually have concrete evidence to prove that a law was broken. However, Trump’s lawsuits are not backed by any evidence of widespread fraud and they are essentially baseless allegations. It is my job to be an honest arbiter of facts and to make a fair assessment of the situation. Yet, the law is the law and it is my job to defend that.

AP: What are your concerns about President Trump’s attacks on the voting system, especially in Pennsylvania?

JS: It’s my job to focus on protecting the rights of our citizens no matter who they are or who they vote for. The right to vote is one of the most foundational rights of our country and I will fight to protect that right. We can’t undermine these systems because they are so crucial to our democracy.

AP: Do you have any advice for teenagers who may be interested in going into law or politics?

JS: Public service is a very noble profession and I encourage you to follow your passion if that’s something you are interested in. Follow your desires which will help you excel and help others. At first, I thought I was going to be a doctor but I fell in love with the law which motivated me to go into politics. My number one piece of advice would be to follow your passions!

Ada Perlman is a senior at The Ellis School. She has worked for Fresh Ink since sophomore year and is currently a staff editor.

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