Gephardt stresses bipartisan work

Jason B. Gumer

Former Congressman and NU alumnus Richard Gephardt told students Monday that politics is a substitute for violence, and bipartisanship is necessary for progress.

“Our greatest accomplishment is we have 535 people that walk into a building in Washington and resolve deep- seeded differences for all of us,” he said. “We had a civil war, we got out and started shooting each other and 600,000 Americans lost their lives when politics was not a substitute for violence.”

Gephardt, who graduated from NU in ’62, emphasized this concept in an hour-long address to students at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.

Gephardt, who served as both House majority and minority leader during his 29 year tenure, returned to NU as part of the Alumni Speaker Series presented by A&O productions, Associated Student Government, the Office of the Provost and the NU Alumni Association.

University Provost Lawrence Dumas introduced Gephardt and spoke of his accomplishments. Gephardt studied speech and communications at NU.

As president of the Student Senate, the precursor to ASG, Gephardt fired two committee chairs for not doing their jobs.

“He insisted people elected to office fulfill their responsibilities,” Dumas said.

Gephardt provided the tie-breaking vote in favor of boycotting the campus barbershop for discriminating against black students.

“He demonstrated at that time that he was going to be on the right side of social justice,” Dumas said.

Gephardt, who also served as president of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, met his wife, Jane, a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and NU alumna.

Gephardt’s speech was a mosaic of lessons, stories and experiences from throughout his life coupled with his hopes for the future.

He began his talk with advice his mother taught him.

“She said love your enemy like yourself, but I had trouble with that,” he said. “I met Newt Gingrich in Congress.”

Another lesson which Gephardt said has guided him throughout his life is fiscal responsibility.

“One of the fundamentals to me has always been that when the economy is going well, you don’t spend a lot more than you take in,” he said. “In other words, you don’t run big deficits, which in my mind get you in trouble.”

Gephardt spoke with worry about the current economic situation.

“Deficits are running higher than anything we have ever had,” he said. “As you look out into the future it just gets worse, there is no plan, no one is talking about what to do with it.”

Bipartasinship and dialogue is the key to bringing about positive change, said Gephardt.

“We seem to have lost our ability to have bipartisan dialogue in the country on a whole range of problems,” he said. “It is going to take a new generation of leaders to break that gridlock and to bring a new spirit and a new flavor.”

Gephardt spoke about how the U.S. should deal with terrorism.

“We will never kill all the terrorists, so we have to prevent people from deciding to become terrorists,” he said. “We must teach them democracy, freedom and a way to make a living and if we do that this will be a better world than it has ever been.”

Gephardt concluded by stressing the need for Democrats to reach out to their adversaries.

“We need to have a broad tent,” he said. “We should stand for certain things, have our base revved up, but we also need to go talk to our adversaries and get a sliver of them, and if we do that we will get 51% (of the vote).”

McCormick junior and Beta Theta Pi fraternity president P.J Grealish said he attended the speech as a political supporter but also because Gephardt is an alumnus of his fraternity.

“He is a Rho Beta and it’s great to see (alumni) coming back to campus and showing their support.”

The NU Alumni Association hosted a reception at the John Evans Alumni Center after the speech.

“He is a gifted speaker,” said Director of Alumni Relations Cathy Stembridge. “I thought he did a really good job of corresponding his experiences as a Northwestern student with his experiences in Congress and clearly he had the audience impressed.”

Reach Jason B. Gumer at [email protected]