Former U.S. Senator Larry Pressler returned to his alma mater of USD to speak with students, faculty, alumni and community members in the Freedom Forum Thursday evening.
Originally from Humboldt, South Dakota, Pressler served as USD’s student body president, and he graduated with a degree in government in 1964. He went on to study at Harvard Law School and was elected to U.S. Congress in 1974, serving two terms in the House and three terms in the Senate.
The event began with questions from David Earnest, chair of the political science department, and concluded with an opportunity for audience members to ask questions of the former senator.
Topics Pressler discussed included his thoughts on the South Dakota and Iowa midterm election results, the importance of independent journalism and why students should consider going into politics.
Pressler said he encourages students to become involved in government, regardless of money or pay.
“If you do choose public service, whether it’s working for the city… or working for a foundation, part of your pay is that extra thrill when you read the newspaper and you’re in it and you helped that thing come about,” he said.
Pressler also said having journalists who are able to report without bias are important in today’s political climate.
“Going into journalism is a form of public service, one of the highest forms,” he said. “It is amazing to me how little journalists are paid.”
Students from South Dakota should not underrate themselves, Pressler said.
“I had a great time in the government department here… You’ve got good professors here,” he said “You can’t underrate yourself just because you’re from South Dakota.”
Matt Yetter, a junior political science, criminal justice and history and a senator for USD’s Student Government Association, said he agreed with Pressler in that South Dakotans can have something unique to offer to government.
“As a out-of-stater, as a Philadelphian, I can definitely see that South Dakotans are modest and don’t want to put themselves out there in a way that could come across as bragging,” Yetter said. “I think the state has a lot of uniquely qualified people that need to put themselves out there.”
Josh Sorbe, SGA president, said students at USD are able to develop skills that can transfer into a career in public service.
“I think students at USD are able to see the value in building relationships and interpersonal skills,” Sorbe said. “At USD, we are proud of the culture that we foster here, and we can take that into a career in public service and have the skills that it takes to get people bought into a cause.”
To watch the entire Larry Pressler: Be the Change event, visit the Cross Media Council’s Facebook page.