Thursday, March 17, 2005
Former congressmen educate students
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
As part of the Stennis Center’s Congress to Campus Program, two former members of Congress spent two days on campus visiting classrooms and meeting with students to inform them of life in public service.
Former congressmen Bill Roy, a Democrat and former doctor from Kansas, and Arlen Erdhal, a Republican and foreign policy specialist from Minnesota, made up the bi-partisan pair who provided firsthand knowledge of life in politics.
Roy and Erdhal visited political science, international studies, sociology and economics classes to share their knowledge in a variety of topics including social welfare policy, foreign policy and the environment, but the continuing theme was the importance of public service.
“If we can change the attitude of one or two students about public service, we’ve done a good job,” Roy said.
Roy and Erdhal stressed the importance of getting involved.
“There are so many opportunities for young people out there in international things,” Erdhal said, citing the Peace Corps as an example.
Political science student Brian Koss had the opportunity to meet with the former congressmen while they were on campus. Koss said he thought it was important to hear their views.
“The people who actually serve in Congress look at things differently than the voters,” said Koss, adding that he thinks the government is more polarized than it was when the congressmen served in the late 70s and early 80s but that it was interesting to see how they dealt with issues and compared it to what is seen today.
Koss hopes the program will come to OU again in the future and more congressmen and women are able to share their views.
“I wish that everyone could care more. They should understand how government impacts them. It would probably be to the benefit of more people to be more interested in government,” Koss said.
Doug Merriam, senior and OU Student Congress legislator, also spent time with the congressmen.
“It’s important to have these people on campus because they bring a unique perspective of someone who was actually an elected official. They were honest to goodness policy makers,” Merriam said.
Dave Dulio, professor of political science, helped organize the congressmen’s trip to OU and considered the visit a success.
“So many students, nearly 350, got to hear from people who served in Congress, which is not something that happens every day on this campus,” Dulio said.
The Congress to Campus visit was part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Celebrating the Liberal Arts Presidential Leadership theme. For more information on the Presidential Leadership theme, visit the Celebrating the Liberal Arts Web site.