The other day, while picking up my son (Zachary Taylor Tures, age 4) from Long Cane Elementary School, I told him “Did you know you were named for a president?” He replied “yes, daddy.” I added “Did you know that Zachary Taylor was a general too?” No, he didn’t know that detail. So I explained what generals do.
“So Zach, would you rather be a president or a general?” Without missing a beat, he replied “A president, daddy.” This caught me by surprise. “Why, Zach?” He smiled. “Because, if you’re a president…you get….A PARTY!” I nearly wrecked on Old West Point Rd., as I was laughing so hard. Where did he get that one? He must be listening when I tune into NPR and Fox News Radio.
LaGrange College is bringing in a speaker who excelled in the military and in politics. He’s Bob Kerrey, from Nebraska. During the Vietnam War, this SEAL Team Lieutenant was severely wounded by a grenade on a mission in a place called Nha Trang. Though it cost him part of a leg, he still continued to direct fire at the Viet Cong. His actions earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. He also won the Bronze Star for an earlier raid.
After returning from war, he got into the restaurant business, switched parties, and defeated the incumbent Nebraska Governor. After turning budget deficits into surpluses, he stepped down after a term. Then he ran for the U.S. Senate two years later. In office, he was one of the senators who held President Clinton’s feet to the fire on deficit reduction, leading to some surpluses similar to those Nebraska experienced in the 1980s.
He did seek the presidency once. I even remember columns by Republicans suggesting that George Herbert Walker Bush dump Dan Quayle and put Kerrey on the ticket! But Kerrey was flanked by Bill Clinton in a crowded primary in 1992, and never did get that shot, though I believe he would have made a fine president.
LaGrange College has also brought in a diverse array of politicians since I have been here. Last year, we had an outstanding commencement speaker in former Republican Congressman “Bo” Callaway. I had the pleasure of chatting with him afterwards, and sent a few quotes of his over to the Southern Political Report.
A few years ago, I remember when former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach came to campus. He made a name for himself, investigating the Clinton Administration over the Whitewater Scandal. I was thrilled to be invited, along with several other professors, to have lunch with Mr. Leach and the LaGrange College administration.
Before that, I remember Georgia Congressman John Lewis giving the commencement address. I did not get to meet him, but heard favorable remarks about him from those that did.
The point of this column is to show that LaGrange College has brought in an ideologically diverse array of speakers for graduation. In what some nationally call a polarized political environment, it’s refreshing to know that the students are having some exposure to a range of ideas from Republicans and Democrats.
John A. Tures is associate professor of political science at LaGrange College.