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What is a Senator?

A Senator is a specialized type of Legislator. Also known as: Federal Senator, State Senator.

A senator is someone who is elected in the central legislative body of a state (usually it concerns the upper, more prominent chamber of Parliament), by voters of a region or other territorial district, and fulfills this governing mandate for a number of years, according to the law. The term "senator" derives from Ancient Rome, where the Senate depicted the 'elders' assembly' ("senex" means "old").

A senatorial career usually involves a long-term commitment as a public figure, as well as a political affiliation to a certain party. A senator needs to keep in close contact with the electors' agenda of concerns and issues at hand. Often this link is facilitated by lobby groups and non-governmental organizations that plead for certain matters at stake, such as limiting civilians' possession of fire arms, protecting the natural environment and other sustainable development topics.

What does a Senator do?

A senator takes part in meetings and congresses, debates over the creation or update of laws and regulations and votes for or against certain political measures or motions. In open, democratic societies, a senator is nominated and elected for parliament as a representative of the people, who defends and promotes their interests. His/her role is essential to the influential mission of checking, certifying and balancing the propositions and amendments made by the Deputies' Chamber - the lower chamber of Parliament.

It is noteworthy that a senator is a prominent, elite figure that other politicians turn to for advice and counselling. Furthermore, he/she is involved in legislative projects of trans-national extent (such as treaties or economic agreements and partnerships between countries). Usually a senate member raises issues and makes legislative proposals, reports and stipulations in plenum (in front of the whole Senate assembly) and in specific commissions, according to his/her professional background.

For instance, a person who has economic expertise may be a part of the financial/fiscal parliamentary commission, a former physician belongs to a public health commission, an actor - to a culture commission, an ambassador - to a foreign relations commission, while a military officer typically participates to an internal affairs committee. He/she should obey procedures regarding speeches, voting and promulgation of legislative initiatives.

For instance, a quorum (a minimum number of senators attending a meeting) is necessary to adopt a project. There are several institutional requirements concerning a solemn etiquette, ritualistic, standardized way of address, a strict code of conduct. All these expectations are legitimate because a senator acts as an influential role model for the political world and for the citizens in general.

In order not to fall prey to revenge litigations, senators typically benefit from political immunity, that is, they cannot be prosecuted throughout their mandate for assignments related to their responsibilities in this public function.

What is the workplace of a Senator like?

The Senate has congress assembly halls and commission working chambers, and each member has a personal office where he/she receives audiences and works on projects. The position of senator supposes frequent travelling inside the country or abroad, for various events such as congresses, symposium, forums or summits.

How can I become a Senator?

Nowadays, this much sought-after status is not merely 'born and bred' through an aristocratic descent, since belonging to the gentlefolk is no longer a compulsory prerequisite. By tradition, mostly in monarchies such as U.K or Scandinavian states, a portion of the senate is reserved for barons, lords, dukes or other nobility ranks. However, the large majority of senators are democratically elected into office.

Eligible persons must normally fulfill some criteria concerning age (e.g. over 30 in the US), citizenship, educational level. Their educational and career paths are very diverse, nonetheless they share some minimum competency criteria, such as: university graduation (normally complemented by post-gradual studies), involvement in community/non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and/or political activities, public visibility and a capital of trust and credibility from the citizens. Typically these people have a political science, law, social science or liberal arts university background, but they may have followed various trajectories, provided they are high-rank professionals.

This high responsibility position requires proven leadership skills, mastered strategies of excellent communication and self-presentation, moral integrity to counteract corruption attempts, vivid ambition and determination, maturity of character, an ability to emphatically understand, inspire and persuade others. Moreover, a vocation for politics means reliability and resourcefulness, the ability to make decisions and find fair compromises, as well as making the most of valuable initiatives and opportunities.

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Further Reading

  • A Day In The Life Of A 45th District Washington State Senator

    First-term Senator Andy Hill, who represents Woodinville among other communities in the 45th Legislative District, writes about a typical day in Olympia.

  • An Average Day In The Senate

    During my first few months as a member of the United States Senate, constituents often asked me what constitutes an average day in the Senate. If I have learned one thing since being sworn in, it is that every day is different. That said, I jotted a few notes in order to provide some idea of what constitutes an "average" day for me in the Senate.

  • US Senate Leadership

    What’s it called when you get a group of strong leaders from every state and put them together to help lead a country? That, of course, would be the US Senate.

  • 5 Leadership Skills CIOs, Senators Share

    Georgia state senator John Albers says his former CIO career prepared him well for the perils of politics. Consider his advice on key leadership traits for both roles.

  • So You Want To Become A Senator?

    For many people in the United States, the steps to becoming a senator may seem mysterious and inaccessible for the common citizen. In reality, there are few requirements insisted on by the Constitution.

  • “Who Are Our Senators And What Do They Do?”

    Canada's Senate is made up of men and women with a wide range of career experience. They understand the issues, focus on the key points and can respond to the needs of the people and organizations affected.

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