By Jordan Beach
Reinhardt University students had the opportunity to experience the knowledge and wisdom from two men who spent nearly a decade working in Congress.
As part of the Congress to Campus program organized by the Association of Former Members of Congress, Republican Dan Miller and Democrat David Minge spent two days at Reinhardt speaking with students, faculty and staff about a variety of topics related to government and politics. Monday, Sept. 16 consisted of class meetings with First-Year Seminar students, including a luncheon with the Student Government Association Executive Board and ending the evening with a Community Gathering.
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, the former Congressmen met with a variety of students, including political science, to answer their questions about government and policies.
Each meeting provided students the opportunity to ask the former Congressmen questions ranging from the lifestyle of a career in government to their stance on specific issues, and even Miller’s memory of Sept. 1, 2001, when he was with former President George Bush at Emma E. Booker Elementary when Bush found out about the planes crashing into the World Trade Towers.
“For those of you who remember it, it was a day you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. They hustled us out to the car and said, ‘We’re going back to Washington.’ No one was sure what was happening…it was a very emotional day, and I still get emotional talking about it,” Miller said, fighting back tears.
When asked what he would say to someone who believes their vote is futile when it comes to electing officials into office, Minge said he understood the cynicism people feel toward elections, yet sees participating in the political process, including voting, essential for the United States to maintain a sense of self governance.
“There is this opportunity to participate and collectively what we do affects policy, government, governance in our country and certainly in our communities,” said Minge. “Here we are, looking at a country of some 300 million people and it’s enormous. It’s not going to be changed or shifted by one breeze or wave, it’s going to take an enormous effort. I think the opportunities we have in our country are in part a function of the self-governance experience that we have and we’re viewed as a safe haven for investment and an advantageous place to live, and we look at the immigration situation, the dilemmas that we face, we can see that for many other people in the world they would give an incredible amount to be in our shoes. And part of being in our shoes is participating and trying to make the system work. Politics is a participatory activity.”
For theatre major Adriana Talkington ’23, she felt the event was informative and believes she can make changes.
“I can make a difference,” said Talkington. “I can go out there and do something because as Dan Miller said, he wasn’t involved in any politics until he was 50, and he just went out and got elected, so that’s something that I could do.”
Freshman Branden Blackwell, history major, viewed the conversation as an encouraging one.
“It was refreshing to see a Democrat and a Republican getting along very civilly,” Blackwell said. “It was a good thing to see that we can get along in politics and it was very informative about the government processes.”
ABOUT CONGRESS TO CAMPUS
Congress to Campus brings together former Members of Congress and today’s youth to increase civic literacy and participation. A bipartisan pair of former Members are sent to college, university and community college campuses for two-day visits. During the visit, former Members conduct classes, hold community forums, meet informally with students and faculty, visit high schools and civic organizations, and do interviews and talk show appearances with local press and media. This setting allows students to discover, on a more personal basis, what participation in a democracy entails. The aim of Congress to Campus is to engage students and provide inspiration that will lead to greater democratic participation; whether it is in the arena of public service or something as simple as voting. Congress to Campus is run by FMC in partnership with the Stennis Center for Public Service.