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November 8, 2012

McGovern Conference to begin with tribute to late senator, continue with theme
of ‘Moving Beyond Political Polarization’ after the last election

MITCHELL, S.D. — He was a husband, a father, a teacher, a soldier, a politician and world humanitarian.

Dakota Wesleyan University has always been proud of George McGovern, since he and his wife, Eleanor, first walked the campus as students in the early 1940s through his service in World War II, the House and Senate, and of course his selection as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972.

Following his death on Oct. 21, the country reached out to commemorate the man and the legacy that was George McGovern. The annual McGovern Conference at Dakota Wesleyan will begin with a special tribute to the man who made his mark on the campus and the world. The conference begins at 10 a.m., Monday, Nov. 12, in the Sherman Center and is free and open to the public. Boxed lunches will be available for those who preregister.

This year’s conference, “Moving Beyond Political Polarization: How Can Congress Best Serve the Nation in the Coming Decade?” will continue with sessions throughout the day discussing the campaigning and political polarization over the last election and how the negativity could affect the operation of the country. A full schedule can be found on the McGovern Center’s website at www.mcgoverncenter.com/conference/.

“The intensely negative campaigning and political polarization appears to be taking a toll. Pollsters are now reporting that Americans are tuning out and now have a decidedly more negative view of politicians and their campaigns,” said Dr. Don Simmons, dean of the College of Leadership and Public Service at DWU and director of the McGovern Center. “Many are wondering how it will be possible for the two major political parties to work together in Congress to pass much needed legislation once the mud-slinging campaign season is over. We want to address that issue at this year’s conference.” 

Keynote presenters for the 2012 McGovern Conference will be former members of Congress Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) and Max Sandlin (D-Texas).

Gutknecht, an Iowa native, was elected to the Minnesota State House of Representatives in 1982. He served for 12 years until 1994, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1995 to 2007. He served on the House Committee on Agriculture and two of its subcommittees: subcommittee on Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture Programs, and as the chairman of the subcommittee on Department Operations Oversight, Dairy, Nutrition and Forestry. He served on the House committee on Government Reform and two of its subcommittees: subcommittee on Criminal Justice Drug Policy and Human Resources, and subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability. He was also one of the congressional candidates who in 1994 signed the “Contract With America” that led to the emergence of the Republican-controlled Congress led by Newt Gingrich.

Sandlin served eight years (1997-2005) in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democratic Congressman representing Texas District 1. He was a member of senior House leadership, serving as chief deputy whip to former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and subsequently to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). While in the House, Sandlin served on the powerful and prestigious Ways and Means Committee, and also served on the Financial Services Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and was chairman of the Blue Dog Energy Task Force.

Other program participants will include political party leaders, representatives of the media and policy makers discussing how Congress can get back on track and move beyond polarization to best serve our nation.

“Anyone who loves politics can’t afford to miss this conference,” Simmons said.

The 2012 McGovern Conference is co-sponsored by the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service and the United States Association of Former Members of Congress, through their Congress to Campus Program.


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Last updated: 11/8/12