Q&A With Congress to Campus Representatives
The following is an edited transcript conducted with former U.S. Congressmen John LaFalce (DNY) and Orval Hansen (R-Idaho), who spoke to students in classes during their "Congress to Campus" visit earlier this month.
How did you get into politics?
LaFalce: I went to law school and graduated in 1964. I went back home for a few months before I joined the Army. I served in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1967, and I returned to practice law where I served with one of the largest law firms in Buffalo. I was happy with what I was doing, but I thought I was having a greater impact on the individual clients I was representing.
However, I wasn't having an impact on society at large, and there were many individuals who were being mistreated such as the poor, and the hungry. I thought it was important to get involved in larger issues. I developed a following because I was involved in community activities.
The Democrats couldn't come up with a candidate to run for a seat in the state senate in New York, and I said I would run. I was told I'd be a sacrificial lamb and that I never would've won if it were not for the Watergate scandal that year. Once I won, I solidified myself for 28 years and served alongside six presidents.
Hansen: When I was 13 years old, my interest in politics was first piqued where I developed an intense interest in politics. The late former Idaho senator William Borah inspired my political aspirations.
When my wife and I married in England and came back to start my practice in Idaho Falls, it was a matter of days before I filed a petition to run for state legislature.
My talents and my interests drew me into this political arena, which is a part of the government where you could have a real impact on the state legislature, and much less so in Congress. It was a highly satisfying endeavor.
The best service in legislature was the friends, and not just friends from your party but from across the aisle. The relationships are the things I cherish the most.
What legislation are you proudest of?
LaFalce: I introduced a bill called "The Women's Business Ownership Act," which I was able to get enacted into law. The bill did many different things such as it protected against discrimination, but most importantly it created a network of women business centers.
In fact, because of this, I was the first male to be selected Congressman of the Year by National Organization for Women Business Owners.
I also worked with the Carter administration, and the EPA to introduce the first "Superfund" bill, which is a law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous materiel.
Hansen: Protecting an area in central Idaho with unmatched scenic beauty against any development for all time.
The Republicans and Democrats came together and we put our talents together and persuaded the chairman to put on the agenda and he became a believer. Forty years ago this year, it was signed into law. That's the one I'm proudest to have my name associated with.
What do you see as biggest obstacles of college students today?
LaFalce: The debt. It acts as a stranglehold for years and years to come. We must contain the burgeoning of both health care and education. Both have increased double or triple that of inflation. When I was a college student, I had part-time job to help finance it my education, but it's virtually impossible today.
There also isn't that great of an expectation or reality about obtaining a decent job. That must be a cloud that hangs over students today.
Hansen: I think people can get a very good education without having to go to Princeton, Harvard or Yale. There are thousands of qualified colleges and universities across the country.
You get out of college what you put into it, so I think a lot of this crisis is self-created.
How would you get students here more politically involved?
LaFalce: I intend to answer questions the students might have. There are many different ways of getting involved. You can be involved in the affairs of your church, village, city, county, or state. It can be through a not-for profit organization, through a Rotary Club or a League of Women Voters.
How you should participate depends on your situation.
Hansen: Don't get involved in the great national or international ambitions. Work on something in your local community that needs attention that you can sell and mobilize support for.
That's the best kind of politics, and you'll see the rewards of success, which will inspire continuation.
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