Daniel Henke ′12
by Scarlett D′Anna
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Major: Political Science
Four years ago, Daniel Henke was looking for a college that would allow him to continue the intimate, focused education he received at his St. Louis high school. Even then he was considering a career in law, and the high acceptance rate of Rhodes students into law school (more than 90%) is part of what attracted him to the college. Now a senior, he plans to join the Rhodes graduates who make up that impressive statistic.
It was in Humanities 201 and Modern Political Philosophy, two classes where he studied such noted theorists as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and F. A. Hayek, that Daniel discovered a passion for political science, and political theory in particular. He was drawn to this field of study because of its unique combination of the philosophical and the practical. Analyzing political phenomena encourages abstract thinking and requires critical examination of problems. The first thing you learn about politics, Daniel says, is causal complexity. Every element of a political system, from theory to legislation, to government institutions, is interconnected. To adequately examine such a system, “you have to look beyond what’s on the page and ask, ‘What are the factors that went into this?’ ”
The complexity of political systems means that solving social issues is never quite as simple as finding the one immediate “root” of a problem and “fixing” it, Daniel notes. Each problem that our political system attempts to solve, he says, is “the sum of human interactions as they play out on the national scale,” and so the study of political science requires you to find practical ways to both serve communal interests and preserve each individual citizen’s rights and freedoms.
Daniel explains that it is a theme in political science “to aggregate the interests of everyone into a form that also protects the individual.” His interest in politics and justice extends beyond the classroom, and he sees the intersection of individual and community rights in his work at the Shelby County Office of the Public Defender, which provides legal representation for those who cannot otherwise afford it. It’s the place of the Public Defender, he says, to ensure that the individual’s rights are not abridged by the pursuit of justice.
Through his internship, Daniel has the opportunity to see the law at work as an undergraduate. Soon he will be working toward a career in law, and the skills he has developed as a political science major will serve him well in this pursuit.