Jim Edgar Comes to Millikin

College students are the least likely demographic to vote and election season is about to open, but Millikin is showing determination in preparing students to engage in politics.

One method Millikin used to bring civic engagement to the students it the Thomas W. Ewing Lecture. This year, the lecture featured former Illinois Jim Edgar.

Prior to the lecture on September 17 at 7 P.M., Edgar took time to speak with several members of the Millikin population. Edgar’s primary goal was to encourage students to pursue a political career. In the lecture, he explained that he thought politics was the best way to make a difference.

“I want them to think, ‘Hey, government and politics is something I ought to think about for a career—or if not, at least I ought to be interested and concerned about who is in office,” Edgar said after the lecture. “I always try to stress to young people that they need to be involved because they have more at stake than anybody. Also, it’s a very rewarding profession. It’s frustrating at times but anything that’s worthwhile is going to be frustrating at times. If it was easy, it probably wouldn’t be that worthwhile.”

It was clear from the beginning that Edgar represented the type of politicians we do not see on television. He stressed three characteristics he believes politicians should have: civility, compromise, and compassion.

When it comes to civility, he brought up his previous relationships with politicians like Mike Madigan, with whom he disagrees over key issues, where they were civil to each other despite their differences.

Edgar was not shy to express his disappointment with our current politicians for not upholding civility. Part of this issue, he believes, comes from the unwillingness to compromise. “He really stressed the importance of compromise in government and really spoke about how we don’t do that, anymore, right?” Liam Hayden said. “He talked a lot about how it’s important for people to come together to find solutions to the problems we have today.”

At one point Edgar told a story about how he needed to compromise on an issue regarding welfare. He needed to pass a law saying those who accepted welfare could only take the check if they went to job training. This bill came to pass, but only after a lengthy compromising process.

Later, a man approached him in the street and told him that the welfare policy requiring job training made it possible for him to get a job and support his family. The system would have hurt him if he had not gotten welfare at all or if he received welfare without any conditions. In this case, compromising on this issue was the best option.

“If you don’t meet people in the middle, then things don’t get done,” Hayden said. “Things don’t happen and policy isn’t accepted. So, I think that was one of the most impactful things that he said and something I think I’ll take with me.”

This was a lesson many of the For many studying political science or other similar fields at Millikin, bringing him to campus helped students learn from an actual politician instead of from a textbook.

“I think it’s great that we are able to have the opportunity to have politicians like Jim Edgar come to our university because it’s showing how progressive Millikin is and accepting of the culture that’s happening in the world today,” Sabrina LeBlanc, a senior political science major, said. “Even though he’s a previous governor, just opening the dialogue and actually acknowledging that politics is a thing at a Liberal Arts University is amazing. It’s really validating my major and what I want to do with my career.”      

Edgar’s lecture not only helped those interested in politics gain insight but students who came to the lecture to speak face-to-face with him could ask him questions—even some that were critical.

Kyren Moore asked about the MSI contract/bribery scandal, which Jim Edgar took time to address.

Whether it was hearing about an old scandal, listening to advice toward improving the political climate, or asking about how to achieve a successful political career, students who attended likely left feeling more familiar with the political process and, Jim Edgar would hope, gained a stronger insight on how to form a good government.

And, perhaps students would like to know, according to Mark Maxwell with Capitol Fax, J. B. Pritzker is seeking his counsel.