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September 21, 2012

McGovern Conference theme, keynote speakers announced

MITCHELL, S.D. — Just a week after the 2012 elections, the annual McGovern Conference will analyze the possible fallout of this year’s negative campaigning and the effects it might have on the operation of the country.

The 2012 McGovern Conference will focus on “Moving Beyond Political Polarization: How Can Congress Best Serve the Nation in the Coming Decade?”

The one-day annual event held on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 12, in the Sherman Center. This conference is sponsored by the McGovern Center and is open to the public. Online registration is available online at the McGovern Center 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 Gringrich.

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.

Contact Simmons at 605-995-2937 for additional program information and registration details.


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