VERMILLION, S.D. – Former U.S. Senator and distinguished University of South Dakota alumnus Larry Pressler will deliver two public lectures on political participation April 16-17.
Pressler will speak about the need for young South Dakotans to run for political office at all levels. The title of his presentation is “Be the Change: Running for Office in S.D. on a Low Budget.” The first event, located in Old Main’s Farber Hall on the USD campus in Vermillion, is April 16 at 4 p.m. The second event, April 17, will be hosted at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Sioux Falls at 6:30 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.
“South Dakota is one of the few states where a middle income person can still run for office,” Pressler said. “We need good candidates for governor, Congress, the state legislature, county commissions, school boards, and city councils. Elected office is still where the basic decisions in our society are made.”
Pressler will also host several small events with various student groups across campus while at USD including a book club discussion with political science students and meeting international students to discuss foreign policy and diversity in government.
“More young people than ever are interested in seeking public office, but the costs and challenges of campaigns may seem daunting. Having served five terms in both houses of Congress, Senator Pressler knows how to combine passion and opportunity to win elections,” said David Earnest, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Political Science and Director of the W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership. “His lectures will demonstrate how young South Dakotans can build a successful low-cost campaign in the era of big money, polarized politics.”
Pressler, originally from Humboldt, South Dakota, graduated from USD in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in government. He also served as student body president. Immediately after his studies at USD, he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar receiving a diploma in public and social administration.
Before earning a master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1971, Pressler served two tours of combat in Vietnam as a lieutenant and was awarded multiple distinctions including the Bronze Star Medal. The first Vietnam veteran elected to the chamber, he represented South Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975-1979 and later in the U.S. Senate for 18 years where he was known for his expertise in international diplomacy and honesty and integrity.
“My speech is designed not just for political science majors, but all men and women interested in a new phase of our democracy,” said Pressler, who uses his 1974 campaign for the U.S. House as an example how a beginner can win on a low budget. “South Dakotans have a unique opportunity.”
In 2014, Pressler ran again for the U.S. Senate as an independent after serving 22 years in Congress as a Republican.
Pressler continues to be an avid speaker at universities and corporations and has written two books about his experience with foreign policy in Congress. They are: “An Independent Mission to Save Our Democracy” and “Neighbours in Arms: The American Presence in a Nuclear Subcontinent.” Pressler will host book signings after the “Be the Change” forums conclude.
Pressler’s lectures are sponsored by the USD University Libraries, Department of Political Science, Department of History, and the USD Foundation and Alumni Association.