Kristin Robinson
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Middle School
Creative Commons Attribution
Media Formats:
eBook, Graphics/Photos, Text/HTML

Education Standards

Politics and Privacy

Politics and Privacy


What do we have a right to know about those who run for public office?

Politics and Privacy

Sam Ellis was a strong supporter of one candidate for President. He agreed with all of her positions. He planned to vote for her in the election. Then, one morning, Sam read in the newspaper that his candidate had once been caught with marijuana. This had happened back when the candidate was in high school, over 25 years earlier. Sam was disappointed.

He wondered if she still deserved his vote.

Photo of press cameras and microphones around a person.
What does the public have a right to know about its leaders?

During campaigns, we learn a lot about political candidates. Some have abused alcohol or drugs. Some have cheated on their spouses or stolen money. Do we have a right to know personal details about political candidates? Some people say yes. They point out that a candidate is asking for the public’s trust. They ask how we, the public, can understand a candidate’s ethics if we don’t know about his or her personal life.


Others think that if we exclude everyone whoever made a mistake, we might leave out people who would make good leaders. Some people think we should only focus on how candidates will handle crucial issues like terrorism, education, and global warming, not how they handle their marriage or their private mistakes. Should some parts of a candidate’s personal life be off-limits?


Imagine this: One of your friends posted a photograph of you being a clown and doing something very embarrassing at a party (use your imagination). If one day you decided to run for public office, you could be sure that this photo would be displayed in newspapers, on television, and all over the internet. One funny moment from years earlier would follow you into your future. Would you feel like your privacy had been invaded? Or would you believe that the public has the right to know about your teenage behavior?