Before earning a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, James A. “Jim” Arnold Jr. ‘77 graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M, where he studied Political Science and was involved in the Student Government Association.
Throughout his career, Arnold has drawn on his experiences as a political science major and his interest in government.
“It’s worked out well because I studied something I really enjoy,” he said. “There are a lot of people who can’t say that.”
Arnold had been working for the Texas Legislative Budget Board for five years when a friend asked if he would be interested in working on Republican Tom Loeffler’s 1986 gubernatorial primary campaign. Since then, he has worked on a number of political campaigns, including then-Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry’s ultimately successful campaign for Lieutenant Governor in 1998.
After working on campaigns and in government at the state and national level, Arnold transitioned to lobbying. He said his greatest challenge, especially as a lobbyist who represents many nonprofit groups, is “trying to convince people to do the right thing for people.”
His career has also led him to countries around the world, including Turkey, where he volunteered to train Syrian activists for the International Republican Institute, an organization whose goal is to foster and develop democracies around the world.
“Our goal was to at least start to talk about what would happen in a post-al-Assad government, because two years ago, people were thinking that he wasn’t going to last […] these are people who wanted better things for Syria than what was happening under al-Assad,” he said.
While a career in politics may sound unappealing to some, Arnold believes it can be an exhilarating field for people who want to make a difference.
“Somebody that’s interested in politics would be somebody that wanted to do something that had larger consequences for the community or for the state,” he said. “If you like ambiguity, and you like excitement, and you think you’re doing good work out there for your country or your state […] it’s a pretty exciting place to be.”
Arnold said the people he worked with on political campaigns generally believed in their party or candidate and trusted that they were doing the right thing.
Although the political world can be tough, Arnold admits, it can also be inspiring to “work for things that you think – whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat – are good for not only you, but the broader community.”
While he touts the years spent working on campaigns as some of the most exciting of his career, he said campaigning is definitely not for the faint of heart.
“I used to tell young people it’s a great profession to go into: It’s long hours, low pay, and no job security – so how could you turn something like that down?”
On Sept. 1, 2022, the Department of Political Science became part of the Bush School of Government & Public Service.