Personal Statement, circa 2009.

Interlude: As I write my dissertation now, I thought to take a moment to reflect on what I thought coming into the program…. Good vision sometimes means new lenses. Here’s the old pair:

Personal Statement for W.S.U. Admissions Committee

I would like to specialize in American Government with an emphasis on the relationship between the people’s voice via referendums, state government, and the federal authority. I believe that the separation of powers creates and maintains civil rights and liberties for the American people; however, it now vacillates between increasing the people’s rights and the authority of the federal government. It seems apparent that the continuing progressive struggle to increase democratic practices in America has decreased during the past few years and might continue its downward spiral. If admitted, I would study this relationship and publish relevant research with statistical analysis. Upon graduation, I will either join a think tank organization or a university as a professor. In both, I would continue my life-long research of American politics.

My study of political science and philosophy developed while attending James Madison College at Michigan State University (1995-1999). In 2002, I began graduate studies at Wayne State to become a social studies instructor and earned my Master of Arts in Teaching in 2005. In 2009, I completed a novel that addresses the relationship between the government and the individual. Thus, I have been examining our current state of affairs and writing reforms for more than a decade. My decision to begin and complete a Ph.D. is necessary to further my understanding of federalism and possible reforms which would improve our fellow Americans’ life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

American political power since the signing of the constitution has (generally) continuously moved toward the federal authority. The usurpation of power by our federal government can be illuminated with daily current events. For example, President Obama approved multiple drone missile attacks in Pakistan since inauguration without a declaration of war from Congress.[i] A whistleblower recently revealed, “The National Security Agency had access to all Americans’ communications… They (the NSA) monitored all communications.”[ii] Three Republican Governors claim that they will not accept the 2009 stimulus unemployment dollars because the federal government will be able to enforce new spending laws in their state if they accept federal dollars.[iii] President W. Bush amended more signing statements (designates a particular part of a legislative bill void) than all his predecessors combined, which often undermined the very provisions the bill sought to address.[iv]

As a yearly subscriber to the American Political Science Association, I have enjoyed many of the articles. Bend Sinister: How the Constitution Saved the Republic and Lost Itself, by Theodore Lowi (PS, 01/2009), was especially elucidating with respect to political legitimacy and presidential power. I understand the type or writing that will be expected of me in the Ph.D. program and I plan to submit many articles to all relevant political science organizations. As a certified Microsoft Office Master, I am able to integrate visual presentations into any lecture with ease.

The Wayne State faculty is of exceptional interest to me; from Dr. Scaff’s intimate knowledge of Weber to Dr. Abbott’s analysis of “Democratic Succession,” from Dr. Brown’s Religion, War and Democracy course to Dr. Elling or Dr. Carr’s Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations course. I enjoyed Dr. Susan Fino’s seminal work, The Role of State Supreme Courts in the New Judicial Federalism. I am very curious about how “…the development of a uniquely state-derived body of constitutional law is an important contribution to not only federalism but the enhanced protection of civil rights and civil liberties” (page 116). Clearly, state’s rights are of vital interest to me and Wayne State faculty.

As a College Professor at Montcalm Community College (Adjunct, 12/2005 to present), I have enormously enjoyed teaching social science courses. In my current American Political Systems class, for example, my students are creating individual projects that measure their desired political platform. Some students create websites or blogs describing their new political party. Students are surprised when they discover that their political ideals are a diverse mixture of the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Constitutionalist, Natural Law and Green parties. With a Master of Arts in Teaching, I take pride in creating life-long learners and active participants. If admitted, I would continually seek the Graduate Teaching Assistantship opportunity because teaching political science at the collegiate level produces a profound joy and challenge within me.

I have only commented upon a very few of the factual and relevant arguments transforming our democratic republic with respect to states rights vs. federal authority and the accumulation of power within the executive branch. Wayne State will provide the necessary resources (reading material, faculty guidance, prolific political dialogues, etc.) to understand the American political process and demonstrate the research and activism that will be required once I graduate. If political power is like a spider’s web; whereas all actions by local, state and federal officials reverberates within the whole, then my Ph.D. dissertation will capture the broken strands and demonstrate a sensible political approach to garner reconnection. I thank you for your consideration and deliberation regarding my admittance.


John Renard Girdwood

[i] Mazzetti and Sanger, Mark and David (2009, February 20 ). Retrieved February 23, 2009, from Obama Expands Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan Web site:

[ii] Gladstone, Brooke (2009, February 6). It’s All On the Line. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from NPR: On The Media Web site:

[iii] Elsner, Alan (2009, February 23). Reuters UK. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from Republican governors split over Obama stimulus Web site:

[iv] Kinkopf, Neil (2006, June 20). Signing Statements and the President’s Authority to Refuse to Enforce the Law. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from Web site:



3 thoughts on “Personal Statement, circa 2009.

  1. because of family, I almost applied to UofM too, but I didn’t see anyone who was a perfect fit for my research interests…. (we wanted to be in Detroit with our newborn). Basically, I knew that I wanted to study under Philip Abbott, and I had made up my mind. Still, I feel fortunate to have been admitted, and under Dr. Abbott’s direction today.

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