By BO MYERS – Student contributor
That was the singular word Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro used to describe himself. I had the amazing opportunity to interview the attorney general Tuesday, December 8th. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we skipped some of the pleasantries and jumped right into the questions to which we teenagers wanted to know the answers.
People oftentimes have a person or event residing as the strongest influence in their life, and it was no different for Shapiro. The attorney general responded quickly to this questioning, saying, “Easily my family and my faith have grounded me and guided me throughout my career.”
When asked about the most powerful lesson that he ever learned, Shapiro said, “That you have a responsibility toward your fellow women and men to make the world a better place for all.”
Shapiro went on to consider the purpose of his running for the position of attorney general, to which he remarked, “I believe the role of the attorney general is the most impactful job in government today. You defend people’s rights, you keep communities safe, you protect people’s interests, and you help make society a better place for all.”
The attorney general swiftly followed up with what he is most proud of accomplishing in his term, explaining that, “We’ve had so many big accomplishments, but I would have to say the work we did to hold the Catholic Church accountable for its sins in abusing thousands of children, and engaging in a conspiracy and cover-up of that abuse that leads all the way from issues in Butler County to the Vatican.”
In an effort to learn more about Shapiro’s younger years, he was asked if growing up in Montgomery County impacted the way he serves as attorney general today. Shapiro doesn’t know if it affected his position directly, but he grew up in a middle-class neighborhood, mentioning that, “I was fortunate and blessed to have food on the table and good schools to go to… It made me realize my own blessings, and that I wanted to provide opportunities for that to all Pennsylvanians no matter what your zip code is.”
At one point in time, Shapiro mentioned that, “I grew up absolutely loving sports, and I still do, both to watch and to play.” He went on to say that basketball was his sport, so he looked up to a lot of Philadelphia 76ers growing up. They are still Shapiro’s favorite team today, and the 76ers have inspired him to coach his kids and even still play. He also added that his favorite player growing up was Maurice Cheeks, point guard from the 76ers.
This fun fact led into whether or not Shapiro had any childhood heroes, whether it be people or actual superheroes, to which he responded with, “Not really. I tend to not look at people as heroes or as singular role models. I try to take little bits from people I meet along the way as examples of what to, and what not to do.”
Shifting from Shapiro’s childhood to his current position, the time period when he first came into office wasn’t necessarily a walk in the park. For those who may not know, Pennsylvania’s last Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, resigned after being convicted of two counts of felony perjury, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. She resigned in August of 2016.
Shapiro clarified that, “We didn’t have trouble, but we had a lot of work to do to get the house in order. She made a mess of not just the internal workings of the office, but she really ruined the relationships that the office had with our fellow law enforcement partners, so I had to repair a lot of that damage, hire new people, and promote existing personnel in order to put a strong team back in place for the Office of Attorney General.”
Many residents of Pennsylvania have questioned the security of the election in Pennsylvania following the 2020 presidential election. Considering Shapiro’s position, it felt fitting to ask whether or not he had personally seen any mild cases of voter fraud, voter intimidation, or vote irregularities in Pennsylvania.
Shapiro took a moment to think, then responded with, “That’s a great question because there has been so much attention and so many lies put forth by the President and his enablers.” He paused, then adamantly said, “No… the answer is no. We have not seen voter fraud in regard to the 2020 election…and certainly not the type of widespread voter fraud that the President claims.”
He added, “I’ve prosecuted people for voter fraud. I take that very, very seriously, and if there was voter fraud, whether it benefitted Donald Trump or Joe Biden and I had evidence of it and jurisdiction over it, I would certainly prosecute the individual or individuals involved.”
“Look, I don’t care if you voted for Donald Trump or Joe Biden. The reality is this was a safe and secure election. You may like the results, you may not like the results, but it doesn’t change the fact that this was a safe and secure election.” Shapiro said.
The next topic discussed with Shapiro was the ongoing opioid crisis in Pennsylvania. In talking about everything his office has done to combat the opioid crisis, the question was posed if he thought there was anything his office could do better or more of.
“I’ve said many times we have to start treating drug addiction as a disease, and not a crime, and in order to get at the root cause of this crisis that claims the lives of twelve Pennsylvanians a day. You have to follow the supply chains.”
In a surprising statement Shapiro said, “The supply chains aren’t just on the street corners of Cranberry Township, but also in the boardrooms of pharmaceutical companies.”
Shapiro added, “I’ve been working for three years on various lawsuits to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their role in this crisis, and I’m hoping that over these next couple months that we’re going to finish this and bring billions of dollars from those companies back to the state for drug treatment programs.”
The interview was concluded by inquiring if he had any intentions of seeking higher office in 2022, whether it be Senator Toomey’s seat or sitting in Gov. Wolf’s chair. Shapiro would rather focus on the present rather than pondering over his future in politics at this time, saying “I’m not thinking about my political future right now.”
Without doubt, Attorney General Shapiro will be sure to have the opportunity to make some influential changes to the state of Pennsylvania in the remainder of his term, and although there is much work to be done, we can expect great things to come.
Bo Myers is a student at Cranberry High School and a member of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.