‘Did it make you a better person?’
That’s what a friend asked me when I had just finished watching The West Wing. It took me 3.5 years to watch all seven seasons (and I was already late to the party).
A couple of years ago, he told me he occasionally watched episodes before going to work. It gave him energy.
Before answering his question, this is what I learned from The West Wing:
- Governing is hard. It’s easy to judge a president’s decision based on just one side of the story, as we all do on Twitter. But The West Wing made me realize how complex governing is.
- Know and test your values. They will be challenged in ways you can’t imagine as soon as you gain influence.
- Turn off your ego.
- Campaigning is math.
I could go on for a while. These are just the first things that come to mind.
Then there’s the matter of working harder because of The West Wing.
I recognize this. I too want to make a difference after seeing Josh, Toby, Will, Charlie and CJ serving their fellow citizens. I too am determined to do everything in my power to use my talents to the best of my ability.
At the same time, there’s a danger in getting energy from The West Wing. It’s not hard to get motivated when you have to report to the Oval Office. When lives are at stake.
The West Wing can make your own work look futile. Especially when you’re the same age as Donna and Charlie. The trick is to get past this. To believe your work is already helping people too (and it probably does). And that you’re already giving almost everything you have. You can use The West Wing as an inspiration to give even more.
Journalists have recently wrote op eds that The West Wing is outdated. That we’ve seen our liberal dreams shattered to pieces with the Obama presidency (which I don’t agree with). House of Cards does a better job in showing how the world works, they say.
I think it’s hard to get more cynical than that.
The West Wing is a series about using your talents and making close to impossible decisions for the greater good. If I’ll try to live up to that, then yes, The West Wing made me a better person.