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Civility Part 2; New School Lunch Guidelines; Book Showers

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Former ND Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, and former Gov. Ed Schafer, a Republican
Concordia College
Former ND Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, and former ND Gov. Ed Schafer, a Republican

Today's Segments:

Civility, Part Two
Last week, we brought you the opening remarks from a compelling panel discussion at Concordia College, featuring former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp and former Governor Ed Schafer. The event, titled 'With Malice Towards None,' took place on April 3 and explored how personal convictions and faith shape leadership in public service. Today, we delve deeper by airing significant portions of the Q and A session from that evening, providing a closer look at how these leaders maintain their integrity and uphold principled commitments amid the complexities of political life. Join us as we uncover these personal reflections and discuss their wider impact on political conduct and leadership. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Nicholas Howard, Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Dr. Sonja Wentling, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

New School Lunch Guidelines
For the nearly 117,000 students in North Dakota's public schools, it is reported that between 30-50% of their daily calories come from the meals they eat at school. Those meals will become even healthier thanks to changes proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the support available to help with implementation, particularly in rural districts. The final ruling is coming this month to prepare for the start of the next school year. Our guests are Meghan Maroney from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Emily Karel, formally with the Grand Forks Public Schools and now a consultant with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

Tom Isern - Book Showers
Tom Isern's 'Plains Folk Essay' offers a poignant glimpse into a unique tradition of early 20th-century America: the book shower. Focusing on the communal spirit of the small town of Canton, South Dakota, Isern recounts an intriguing episode from 1913 when a newly established library found itself without a single book. In a remarkable display of community support and generosity, residents flooded the new building, each bearing books to stock the empty shelves. This act not only filled the library but also symbolized the unity and cultural aspirations of a community poised to shape its own destiny.

With Malice Towards None Transcript (Part 2)

Main Street

Last week we brought you the opening remarks from a compelling panel discussion at Concordia College featuring former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp and former Governor Ed Schaefer. The event, titled With Malice Towards None, took place on April 3rd and explored how personal convictions and faith shape leadership in public service.

Today we delve deeper by airing significant portions of the Q&A session from that evening, providing a closer look at how these two leaders maintain their integrity and uphold principled commitments amid the complexities of political life. Join us as we uncover these personal reflections and discuss their wider impact on political conduct and leadership. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Nicholas Howard, Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Dr. Sonja Wentling, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, who posted the initial question about the moral compasses guiding Senator Heitkamp and Governor Schaefer.

Dr. Sonja Wentling

Both of you were talking about good people needing to stand up, and Governor, you were talking about that you need to stay true to yourself. My question is somewhat of a personal nature. What informs your moral compass, your goodness?

What has kept you on the good side to fight for the good people?

Former Gov. Ed Schafer

That's a great question, because I think it's one of the most important elements of performance is knowing who you are, what you believe, what you stand for. Because as Governor Link told me, it's so easy to get pushed off by a poll or whatever. If you don't know what you stand for, if you don't know what you believe in, it's very difficult to walk a straight line and get it done.

For me, I'm a Christian, I'm a follower of Jesus, and my moral compass and character comes from the Bible and the truths of the Bible, and I relate that to what I believe in and how when I'm faced with a situation, when I have to make a decision, when I have to listen to somebody that disagrees or whatever, I go back to the love and the compassion of Jesus, and that's what keeps me in a straight line.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

I think it's interesting, because I once did Girl State, and a young woman asked me during the program, she said, you're Catholic, you were raised Catholic. I said, yes. How do you square your political beliefs with your religion?

I thought it was kind of a brash question, actually. And I said to her, I said, I think I am who I am because of my religion. I was raised with a sense of service and commitment to each other.

You know, when you look at kind of the tradition that you're raised in, the religious tradition that you're raised in, I think, for me, it definitely informed my priorities and what I cared about. And I think when you're a politician, and there is always a shortcut, trust me, there's always the easy way out of making a decision, especially if you're in the legislative branch. It's a little harder to hide the decision when you're an executive, but if you're in the legislative branch, you can always lay low and just go with the flow, right?

And no one's going to know who you are or what you've done. The bottom line is, the votes that you take may not be the ones that you, the public, understand, but they are the ones that challenge you to live your faith, to live your ideals, to live your values against a big headwind of the people don't want you to do it. I would say the votes I'm proudest of are the ones that I felt took a principled position against a big headwind.

The votes I'm least proud of are the ones where I copped out, where I took a dodge, where I took a fall, just so I didn't have to confront the tough decisions. You know, I said this morning on a radio show, I am not Saint Heidi. I've not done everything right, but I think at the end of the day, the most important thing that you can do, if you have made, and you know, by the way, you know when you've made one of those decisions, because you don't feel very good about it.

The thing that you can do in the spirit of Jesus, I think, is to step back and say, I did not do what I needed to do today. I will do better tomorrow. And we can all grow from the mistakes that we make, from the decisions that we didn't make, or the decisions that we made that were done for selfish purposes and not for purposes of advancing society in the long run.

Former Gov. Ed Schafer

I'm curious for both of you having different backgrounds politically in terms of what offices you served in and how you got there. When you think about the world, what does it mean for a politician to serve and live in this increasingly polarized world we live in? What was the second part?

I'll get there.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

Do what every good politician does, answer the question you wanted asked.

Former Gov. Ed Schafer

It was broad. It was broad for a reason.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

Oh, I even forgot the question.

Former Gov. Ed Schafer

So what does it mean for a politician to live kind of in this polarized world?

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

You look at the people who have stood against the wave, stood against, you know, stood for principles, and, you know, obviously you're all going to know who I'm talking about. People like Liz Cheney that I would not have agreed with Liz Cheney in any way, shape, or form. But I believe she's a true patriot, Mitt Romney.

But I want to mention a friend of mine, James Langford. James Langford and I are about as polar opposite. Other than having red hair, we have nothing in common.

But we served, I was ranking member or committee chair, I can't remember which. It was one year I was chair and he was ranking and the next it was reversed. But we did a lot of work together and we built that mutual respect and a friendship.

That was kind of really odd given kind of where we came from. But I watched him stand in the void and I think found his voice. And I thought it doesn't matter whether you agree with what James did or not.

And you all know James Langford was the chief negotiator on the immigration reform bill that was never taken up in the Senate. An unlikely hero standing in the void of profile and courage. And so it used to be that you were in the political limelight and get accolades for being the compromiser, for being somebody who would put the tough work in, come up with the result that may not be perfect.

And now to be that person is the greatest risky place in politics. To be a compromiser is the greatest risky place in politics. And that makes this era of our political discourse that much harder because you are not going to get anything done unless you're willing to compromise.

I'm not a compromiser.

Former Gov. Ed Schafer

How is it to work in the political system today? I love it. First of all, I'm a debater.

I like talking to people with difference of opinion. I like gathering a lot of different, some people are a little weird out there these days. But I have this thing in me about I want to wade into the conflict because I want to solve the conflict, which is kind of dumb sometimes because you can't solve the conflict.

You know, I really enjoy it. And one of the reasons I enjoy it is because I've been blessed to be held in good stead in the state of North Dakota. So 25 years after we're out of office, people are still saying, you did a good job.

What do you think about this? Takes us longer to go grocery shopping these days because everybody wants to talk about it. I think the important thing is going back to performance.

You know, when you've done well, when people appreciate what you were able to accomplish, and maybe they even embellish it over time and think I did a better job than I did. The point is, I'm a people person. Politics is a people business.

I love the interaction. And I actually enjoy getting yelled at once in a while. Not at home, but, you know, in the grocery store.

But I do appreciate that conflict because I really think, you know, that the more that people are willing to stand up and express their views and their direction, the better off, the better policy, the better direction that we're going to get. Because you somehow, someway incorporate what they say in what you do. And it may not be recognizable.

It may not be, hey, you know, so and so told me that I should do this. But, you know, you gather that information. And the more information, the more feeling you get from people, the more you understand that there is difficulty and angst and people are angry and difficult.

But the more you can absorb that, the better job you're going to be able to do moving forward. So I'm asking for story time a little bit from each of you on your answers to the first part. What is a specific example in your careers of reaching across the divide of actually working towards solving these problems in your specific examples?

Interestingly, one of the comments or interactions we had with the students today asked a similar question about, you know, or I guess when we were talking to the faculty is, how do you change your mind? Or, you know, is an institution here, the education and learning that allows me to change my mind, you know, to gather the information? One of the things I was talking about was there was a time when there was a difficult policy decision on the table.

I think it was Heidi. I'm not sure. But, you know, we had to, you know, go into this meeting with a plan with what we wanted the outcome to be.

The staff was all tuned up. We had all the notes. Everything was there.

And during this time of the meeting, I changed my mind. Because what was being said, the other side, the other thing that was going on, it was that, again, that experience with staff, you know, it was like, what are you doing? But, you know, really it was that drawing of the information that said, okay, you know, maybe that is the best way to go.

And again, it's the focus on not your political philosophy or your direction, but it's like, what's best for the people here? There was a time when I vetoed a piece of legislation. It became apparent afterward that that was probably the wrong decision.

And I actually wrote a letter to the legislators and said, override my veto. You know, you have to be willing out there to, you know, accept that information and do what's right. It was one of the tenants in our office was do the right thing.

And we tried to do that as much as we could.

[Speaker 3]

We are listening to excerpts from With Malice Towards None, a panel discussion held at Concordia College with former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp and former Governor Ed Schaefer. The event was held on April 3rd.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

And I think my whole history in the Senate is one of working across the aisle. You couldn't get anything done. Senate's a place where you need 60 votes.

And if you're not crossing over to try and get somebody to agree with you, to work with you, you really aren't getting it done. But I think some of the things that you do that people don't see or never result in legislation. People always say, well, what's the one thing you could tell me about your work?

Well, I'm a big believer that a lot of challenges families have and individuals have is related to adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma. If you've studied childhood trauma, you know if you have four or more adverse childhood experiences, there's 10. But if your score is four, your life expectancy is 20 years less than anyone else in the country.

These are indicators that tell us whether you're going to have mental health challenges, whether you're going to have addiction challenges. And so I came to the Senate wanting to find solutions to problems, not just treat the symptoms, but what are the root causes of the challenges that people have and families have, particularly children. And I knew that if I started preaching adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma, everybody would go, yeah, yeah, whatever.

And so what we did in my office is we put together a series of interventions and seminars, starting with staff, bringing in staff members. And we started, and maybe there were 30 people at the first one. By the time we finished bringing experts, talking about this, we had over 150 staff people in the room.

Because word of mouth spread that this is pretty interesting stuff. Today in legislation, it's not going to have my name on it, but pretty much every piece of mental health legislation, every piece of education legislation will have a component that deals with childhood trauma. Okay, what does that mean?

It means we'll never know whether we'll see healthier children or whether we'll have better interventions. But it does mean that you can have an impact that goes beyond just one piece of legislation, one farm bill, one banking bill that opens up community bankers to more opportunities. I could go through all that, but if you said what's the one thing that I think, if I had to say, might have a lasting impact, with absolutely no attribution ever for me, it's the work that we did on adverse childhood experiences and childhood trauma.

Because I think it's critical.

Dr. Sonja Wentling

Compromise can bring good things about.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

That's not a compromise, isn't that what you said?

Dr. Sonja Wentling

To follow up on that?

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

Yeah, he's been out of politics longer than I have.

Former Gov. Ed Schafer

But here's my point. I don't think that you have to compromise to craft good public policy. And we always say you have to compromise, you have to do it.

After my first legislative session in the sine die party, which is what everybody claps when it's all over, Republican legislators came up to me and said, you don't compromise. You don't compromise on anything. I said, I compromise for not my values.

I don't have to give up my values to understand what's best for the people. And so I'm willing to incorporate what's best for the people. I don't have to compromise my values, what I believe, what I care about.

I don't have to give that up. But I can craft policy that is beneficial for the common good. And I think that makes a difference.

And so it always bugs me when people say, well, you have to compromise. You don't. People say you have to be a moderate Republican.

Spoken like a governor.

Dr. Sonja Wentling

Well, then let's not use the word compromise. But you do have to work together, right, to get things done. So what advice would you give our younger generation that maybe is interested, wants to go into politics, wants to do good?

Should they stick to their principles? Should they compromise? What are your sort of recommendations, your guiding thoughts?

What would you tell them?

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

I don't think when we talk about compromise, we talk about compromising principles or values. There's some things that you shouldn't compromise. And you've got to know that as a politician.

But the problem with politics today, and as a human being who has to look in the mirror in the morning after you take one of these votes, what I would say is, in America, we have let perfect be the enemy of good. By that, I mean we want what we want, and we want it the way we want it. And if it's not that way, I'm not going to do it.

I wanted to do a bill that dealt with improving border security on the northern border. Everybody agreed with it. It was supposed to go through unanimous consent.

And one person said, I'm not going to let that go, because one person can freeze you out from unanimous consent. And I'm not going to go with that, because I want something for the southern border. You know, I just want to do this one thing that's going to get us more border openings and more border patrol on the northern border.

And everybody agrees that we need it. Perfect is the enemy of good. And if we're ever going to move policy along, I would tell young people, understand your values.

Yes, be true, like Ed said, to who you are as a person. And know that if you do something that makes you feel internally bad, it's probably you're compromising a core value. But you aren't going to get the whole loaf.

That's not the way the world works. Certainly not the way legislation works. And so find those victories, because incrementally, things can improve.

And if you aren't willing to do incremental improvement, we're going to stall out the way we've been stalling out in Washington right now.

Former Gov. Ed Schafer

Advice to young people today is really to understand that our system is great, that our system works. And while it's difficult sometimes, and man, it gets nasty, and there's a lot of pushback or whatever, you know, we have a political system in the United States of America that is solid, it's good, it's resilient, and it survives. And we have elections, and they change, and everybody thinks, oh, I'm so important, I'm going to change the world when I get elected, and then they don't do it.

But you know what? Our system survives. We often, and especially students and young people today, you know, think it's all about me, it's so important, I have to get in there, I have to get it done, I have to have my voice be heard.

And when you do that, I think you really get to the point of saying, like I said, it's all about me and not about the people. So my advice is always take the stance that you have to represent all the people all the time. If you're going to serve, you need to serve people, not the government, not your own political party.

You need to serve the people. In doing that, when we talk to campus leaders here today, they're involved, there are various factions on the campus, there are other people. And Heidi's advice was, hey, go stand next to them.

The people you disagree with, the people you don't understand, be there, engage, learn from them. But here's the reality. They have their opinion, they arrive there through study, through education, through prayer, and it's real and right for them.

It might be different than yours, but that doesn't make it wrong. And we need to have that understanding between people to make the system work. We're starting to learn who the candidates are for the 2024 election for the presidential race we know now.

And we're starting to learn, we're going to learn soon for the North Dakota gubernatorial race, for the House race to replace the aspiring gubernatorial candidate, Kelly Armstrong, and other races. I'm curious how you see kind of the, I'm going to say stakes, because I can't even come up with a better word, of this election. It doesn't have to be presidential, it can be congressional, it can be state level.

Essentially, kind of how do you see this race in isolation for the stakes of it and kind of the history leading to this? You know, in the governor's race specifically, what I'm interested in the governor's race and what the results are, is I'm interested in both candidates saying, this is how I'm going to govern. And let me give you an example.

Both are Republican gubernatorial candidates in North Dakota. Both of them, when they made the announcement, said, I'm going to follow along with Governor Burgum's effort to eliminate the income tax. So, as I've been interacting and talking to both candidates, you know, my question is, what's your tax policy?

What's best for the people of North Dakota? I want to know how you're going to govern. And if you're going to walk into that governor's office with a preconceived notion of what you're going to do already, you can't represent the people.

The example that I talked to them about is when you say you're going to lower or you're going to eliminate the income tax in North Dakota. I go, okay, so 60% of the people in North Dakota don't pay income tax. The high level earners pay income tax.

You know, eliminating the income tax sounds good to Wall Street and billionaires and things like that, but what about the people? Now, if you're going to have tax policy for the people, and by the way, tax policy isn't revenue. By the way, tax policy is behavior.

And if you're going to have tax policy for the people, maybe eliminate sales tax on clothing, you know, or something like that. That benefits everybody in the state instead of a little bit. And I think that's the difference when you get in the chair of governor, you're representing all the people all the time.

And you've got to have that different perspective of being able to absorb what people are needing and looking for and wanting in their government and reacting to that and developing public policy to do that. So that's what I'm looking for in the governor's race.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp

The unfortunate thing is that this is not going to be a campaign of inspiration. My hopes and my dreams is that we are inspired to vote for someone. And what you're going to hear, I don't care if it's a Democrat or Republican, what you're going to hear is be very afraid of the other person.

The other person's really a bad person. The other person will do really bad things. And that is going up and down the ballot.

And you see it right now in the governor's race, right? I mean, there isn't any policy difference, so I don't know what all of the negative ads are. Just seems to me like that kind of fear or that kind of negative stuff is even infiltrating in a primary race in North Dakota in the dominant Republican party.

And so what I would say is that if you're looking for an inspiring, uplifting, boy, am I excited about America Democracy 2024, you should maybe go to sleep. Because it's not going to happen. And so the question becomes in this cycle, do we just let that wash over us and say we're going to try and be better?

Main Street

Those were excerpts from the With Malice Towards None panel discussion held at Concordia College featuring North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp and former Governor Ed Schaefer. Both leaders shared profound insights on how personal values and faith shaped their political leadership. They discussed the challenges of maintaining integrity within a polarized environment and emphasized the importance of steadfastly adhering to one's belief amidst complex political decision making.

Their narratives highlighted the crucial role that ethical foundations play in guiding their actions and decisions in public service. Stay tuned for more segments from this enlightening panel discussion on future episodes of Main Street.