August 18, 2014
The Eugene J. McCarthy Center is pleased to announce that "The Mark Kennedy Frontiers of Freedom Lecture Series" will feature Matt Rhoades at Saint John's University on September 15, 2014. The time of the lecture has yet to be determined.
Rhoades is the Founder of America Rising SuperPAC and former Romney for America Campaign Manager.
This Lecture Series is made possible through the generosity of the Honorable Mark Kennedy '79.
August 5, 2014
For the last several years, the Citizens League has been fortunate enough to host a Brandl Scholar from the Eugene J. McCarthy Center at St. John’s University over the summer. The interns we’ve had from this program are bright and enthusiastic, and quickly become key contributors to our work at the League. This year’s intern, Justin Markon, was absolutely no exception. He stepped in with great initiative and became a valued member of the staff. Our thanks to him and the Eugene J. McCarthy Center at St. John’s for this ongoing partnership. The following are some parting words from Justin as he prepares for his final year at St. John’s.
Working with the Citizens League this summer has been a valuable experience. The League itself is a unique organization, as I’ve heard staff explain on numerous occasions. When I began my internship, words like “organizing agency” and “civic policy making” were difficult to grasp, and I know for all staff their meanings continue to evolve. I tried to jump right in and learn as much about the League’s work, including the electrical energy project, which has been extremely rewarding. My biggest takeaway from this summer has been learning about civic policy making and why the Citizens League is relevant today as much as ever. Unfortunately, our political system these days is not operating at its best. Speakers at seminars or discussions call for change to the current system, but do so without suggesting meaningful resolutions that truly help all parties. The Citizens League, over its 62 years, has crafted real solutions. Over that time, not every policy won unanimous support, but the staff and members choose issues they see as making Minnesota a better place. These are lessons I will take no matter where life takes me.
In three weeks, I will start my final year at St. John’s University on Minnesota’s prairie. I am very excited to take a class on local and regional politics, where I am sure I will use knowledge from this summer. Additionally, this year I will complete my senior thesis. I plan to write on the political differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin that have cropped up in the past decade. Undoubtedly, work by the Citizens League will serve as background for comparing polices. After graduation in May I will seek gainful employment, like most college graduates. Right now, I’m not sure what sector or policy area I will jump in first, but I am excited to see what is over the horizon.
Finally, I am excited for the future of the Citizens League. I am thankful to the Eugene J. McCarthy Center at St. John’s for giving me this opportunity to learn from and work with the Citizens League. As one of those citizens, I hope to stay involved and watch the continued success. Thank you to all the staff, members and supporters for making this a meaningful summer. The Citizens League is an important institution in Minnesota that will continue to serve the people and create “common ground for the common good.”
March 31, 2014
Collegeville, MN -- The Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement is pleased to announce that Anoka County Commissioner and 6th District congressional candidate Rhonda Sivarajah and Former MN Senator Tarryl Clark will be the special guests at this Thursday's Politics & A Pint.
Sivarajah and Clark will be joined by CSBSJU political organization chairs Bridget Cummings (College Democrats), Ashley Bukowski (College Republicans), and Katherine Zuroski (Students Fostering Conservative Thought) to discuss the challenges women face in politics.
CSBSJU Political Science professor Dr. Claire Haeg will moderate the discussion.
These six women will join the CSBSJU community on Thursday, April 3 at 5pm in O'Connell's at the College of Saint Benedict in Saint Joseph, MN.
March 19, 2014
Since the conversation series’ birth in the spring of 2008, its student and community participation has grown exponentially. McCarthy Center Director and CSBSJU Professor Matt Lindstrom attributes this success to the Center’s impressive presence on campus.
To view the full "Politics & A Pint: Ukraine on the Brink" event on YouTube, click here.
February 12, 2014
A debate from the "Sartell Says: Town Hall Debate" series, on the motion "Chickens should be able to roost in residential areas." The debate touched on issues related to urban and rural life, local food, personal rights, property values, and more. Moderated by Patty Candella.
To listen to the full debate, click here
January 15, 2014
Saint John's University
Digital Commons @CSBSJU
Two economists looked back on 2013 and predicted what's ahead economically for 2014 during a live radio taping for Minnesota Public Radio at noon Thursday, Dec. 19 at the Lecture Hall (room 102), Saint John's University Art Center, Collegeville.
"MPR News Presents: A Year-End Look at the Economy" featured Louis Johnston, associate professor of economics at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University who holds the Joseph P. Farry Professorship at SJU, and Chris Farrell, MPR's economics correspondent. The discussion was hosted by MPR Editor at Large Gary Eichten.
"Chris and I will look at the economic scene from state, national and international perspectives," Johnston said. "Gary Eichten and audience members will ask questions that will push us to talk about where we've been, where we are and where we're likely going."
Johnston writes a twice-monthly column on economics called Macro, Micro, Minnesota for MinnPost.com, reporting on economic developments in the news and what those developments mean to Minnesota. He is a frequent contributor on economic issues on MPR and WCCO Radio.
Johnston, who has taught at CSB and SJU since 1997, specializes in macroeconomics and economic history.
Farrell is economics editor of "Marketplace Money," a nationally syndicated one-hour personal finance show produced by American Public Media. He is also an economics correspondent for "Marketplace," the largest business program in broadcasting and chief economics correspondent for American RadioWorks.
The award-winning journalist and author of two books, Farrell is a graduate of Stanford University and the London School of Economics.
Eichten, an award-winning broadcaster who hosted the "Midday" program on MPR for over 20 years before retiring from that position in January 2012, is a 1969 graduate of SJU. Eichten began his career at MPR as a student announcer at KSJR in Collegeville (MPR's first station).
The event was sponsored by the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement at Saint John's University, serving the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University.
To watch the full interview, click here.
November 19, 2013
Saint Cloud Times
Little compromise is seen in Washington, experts say, but it's rare in daily conversation although debate in Washington seems to have calmed down for the time being, it’s left many wondering whether compromise is a lost art.
Attendees gather around economics professors and moderators King Banaian from St. Cloud State University and Louis Johnston from St. John's University on Thursday for the McCarthy Center-sponsored Politics and a Pint discussion on the debt ceiling. / Kimm Anderson, firstname.lastname@example.org
The struggle to effectively compromise also can be seen in the Minnesota Legislature, which itself triggered a state government shutdown in 2011. And a local professor said he has seen students who think they can argue a point by simply stating an opinion, not realizing they need to back it up with fact. It can even be seen at the dinner table where friends and relatives call for compromise then deride a politician for taking a moderate stand.
The causes of the shutdown deal with political realities, but also how Americans argue and disagree with each other and how groups work through conflicts.
Local experts examined the shutdown from their academic perspectives, suggesting factors that contribute to gridlock in Washington, whether it can be fixed and what it says about American culture.
The answer? It’s complicated, and no, there’s no silver bullet.
Matt Lindstrom, a political science professor and director of the McCarthy Center at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, said it’s hard to say whether a “culture of no compromise” at the national level trickles down to state and local politics, but he said it would be an intriguing research project.
He regularly has group discussions on contentious issues, such as the Politics and a Pint discussion last week where local experts discussed the debt ceiling debate with students and the public.
“Most people don’t like the bickering and no compromise; they see the dysfunctionality of the shutdown,” he said. “But at the same time, they go to their dinner tables and Facebook and continue zero-sum dialogue.”
“There’s a cognitive dissonance in our culture ... I see it over and over again,” he said. Lindstrom said it’s common to hear assertions that compromise is beneficial, followed by, for instance, labeling an anti-abortion Democrat a sellout or some Republicans RINOs — “Republican in name only,” he said
“That whole definition of RINO is a deadly word. ... It’s a destructive acronym ... it’s driven by the underlying assumption that compromise is bad,” he said.
It reminded him of a Ronald Reagan quote, he said: “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.”
He harkened back to the oft-cited relationship between Reagan, a Republican president, and Tip O’Neill, a Democratic speaker of the House, one where they disagreed over policy but got along personally.
“At least they were talking and respecting one another,” he said. “We need a lot more of that these days.”
Lindstrom attributed the crisis in Congress largely to two facts: the lack of cross-party socialization between members of Congress, and electorally “safe” legislative districts. In safe districts, candidates and office-holders don’t have to worry about appealing to the middle. Instead, they worry about losing a primary to someone with a more extreme position to the right or left.
Can't they all just get along?Arik Putnam is an associate professor of communications at St. Ben’s and St. John’s. He regularly teaches students the dynamics of debate and how to debate to resolve conflict.
He said the knee-jerk reaction to crises like those in Congress is “can’t they just get along?”
Humans incorrectly believe we’re good at dealing with conflict, he said, but we’re not. Simply asking Congress members to put aside personal interests won’t work.
“It won’t work. That’s an insane expectation for a human being,” he said. “The notion to put aside differences and come together is so naive and ahistorical and a bad idea.”
“The idea is not to get rid of difference but to find better ways of dealing with it.”
And the fact we complain about their inability to compromise means we’re implicated in that culture, and that it’s part of a larger cultural trend.
“We like to feel judgmental. There’s a lot of pleasure in judgment,” he said.
He likens it to obsession with the foibles of celebrities, because we can say to ourselves at least we’re not like that.
“It’s the same kind of titillation in scandal, conflict and disagreement,” he said. “Conflict itself is good, but the titillation around it is not.”
The blame gamePutnam contends much of the rhetoric around the shutdown wasn’t focused on resolving the conflict, but rather to blame the other side.
“I think appearing to disagree is more profitable. In the contemporary debate about shutdown ... it has everything to do with blame,” Putnam said. “Blame is a really profitable thing to do. ... Accusing other people is really useful.”
“By posturing, you put off loss,” he said. “We need to find better of ways dealing with not winning everything we want.”
St. Cloud State University Professor of Political Science Steve Frank said accepting loss as part of the political process informs how he approaches another of his roles: that of a St. Joseph City Council member.
And when you do things incrementally, it’s sometimes easier to get consensus.
“You don’t have to change everything at once.”
Putnam high worries events such as the shutdown and debt ceiling deadline could make students less politically engaged and more cynical.
He said he is now seeing students who fail to realize the need for evidence to support an opinion.
“People don’t even tend to justify things anymore,” he said, behaving as though an opinion and an argument carry equal weight.
“The process of justification ... is more important than the assertion itself,” he said.
Work with the 'enemy'Lindstrom said the lack of socialization between Congress members “dehumanizes the opposition.”
“When you don’t know the other person as a human being, but just as a ‘D’ and an ‘R,’ that incentivizes the culture of no compromise because you’re working with the enemy,” he said.
To get his students to humanize another position, Frank encourages students to change their media habits.
To students who primarily watch Fox News, he suggests reading New York Times editorials. Students who watch MSNBC are encouraged to check out The Wall Street Journal’s editorials.
“That doesn’t mean you accept those ideas,” Frank said, but “if you get a better understanding of where people are coming from, you see where the common areas of understanding are.”
Opening minds“In order to engage in genuine debate, you have to prepare to be wrong,” Lindstrom said. “You have to be open to what they have to say to you.”
That’s a trait that isn’t widely encouraged.
“We’re more committed to assertiveness and conquest,” he said.
How do we fix this? Experts agree: There’s no quick fix.
Making legislative districts more “purple” — less dominantly Democrat or Republican — could lead to political moderation, Lindstrom said.
But redrawing of legislative districts is years away and in some ideological strongholds probably wouldn’t change much.
House seats, with their shorter terms, were designed to be in touch with the political winds of the day, Lindstrom said. “However ... because of the safe seats, the political winds are not as impactful,” he said.
As for an open mind?
“Both parties are guilty of that bunker mentality,” Lindstrom said, because interest groups are watching closely and scoring votes.
“If you see 360 degrees, that doesn’t mean you’re selling out,” Lindstrom said. “It means you’re talking to other sides.”Central Minnesota experts take academic perspective to political bickering and society
ABC News broadcaster and NPR contributor Cokie Roberts delivered the seventh installment of the Eugene J. McCarthy Center lecture series at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater. Roberts’ lecture was entitled “Conscience and Courage in Public Life.”
Upon graduating from Wellesley College in Mass., Roberts went on to become a nationally-known journalist and commentator. She co-anchored ABC’s “This Week” with Sam Donaldson from 1996-2002. She has reported for World News Tonight, other ABC shows and served as a correspondent for CBS.
In addition to television broadcasting, Roberts is a political contributor to NPR, where she was the congressional correspondent for more than 10 years. Roberts and her husband publish a weekly column for newspapers around the nation.
Roberts has also been heavily involved in civic engagement, an area of importance for the McCarthy Center at SJU. She has served on the board of the Kaiser Family foundation and on the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation under George W. Bush.
Roberts focused on the need for progression in society and specifically on the role that women and minorities can take. Roberts described her beliefs on the roles of religious leaders in society.
Nuns are “historically more involved as citizens than any of us realized,” Roberts said.
She shared a special connection with the community of CSB, attending an all-female liberal arts college herself.
“The nuns don’t give up,” Roberts said in reference to a long history of religious women taking positions of leadership.
Roberts went on to say the role of religious women in society has not only been a gift to the church, but also the country.
She mentioned the yearlong centennial celebrations at CSB, and encouraged the Bennies in the audience to “be the agents of change in society,” and to “give voice to the powerless.”
“We need you to do that kind of work as a public servant,” Roberts said.
Roberts’s education at an entirely female institution hit home for some CSB students.
“I think it’s fantastic,” sophomore Diana Elhard said. “Being a Bennie, it’s important to realize that in (Roberts’) first months after college on the job market, it was legal for people to say ‘I am sorry we don’t let women do that job,’ and that was impressive being that was her first experience in the job world, and it’s important because that wasn’t that long ago.”
Roberts also spoke about the world of changing journalism and the role that younger generations play in new media, making references to Twitter.
“Media plays a very important part in how people view politics and for that reason Cokie Roberts is very influential. She uses media to bring politics to everyone,” SJU Sophomore Edwin Torres said. “She starts debates and talks about how we can bring Congress together and not be so polarized.”
Roberts stressed the importance of looking back at the history of the country and the institutions of CSB/SJU, and stressed the importance of continuing forward with the work that has already been done in the world of civil and social rights.
We need to have “the conscience and courage to go into public life and make a difference,” Roberts said.
November 18, 2013
The three new laws went into effect in March. The first requires landlords to sign a keg permit acknowledging beer will be served on their property. The second allows police to charge people who are drunk with a misdemeanor if they're uncooperative with police.
The third ordinance holds hosts responsible if any minors drink alcohol at their social gatherings. The social host law is getting a lot of attention from students 21 and over because they fear the repercussions of socializing with mixed-age groups.
"One silly mistake and you get a misdemeanor, mandatory court appearance, possible jail time, up to a $1,000 fine that sticks with you for the rest of your life and can haunt you in your job search, can haunt you in anything," he said. "The punishment does not match the crime."
Neither city nor school officials informed students about the new ordinances until after they were passed in January. After several weeks of growing confusion, students organized a special meeting to get more information.
A meeting of the school's "Politics and a Pint" series focused solely on this topic. The series, which is hosted by students and focuses on a variety of issues, allows alcohol to be consumed by attendees who are 21 and older. Political science professor Matt Lindstrom moderates the series.
"We're going to hear all about kegs and social host ordinance, what that means, and also -- pay attention -- what it doesn't mean. And that's, I think, just as important," said Lindstrom.
A few hundred students packed Brother Willie's, the on-campus pub at St. John's, to hear public officials speak, including the mayor of St. Joseph, a council member and Police Chief Pete Jansky. Jansky told the students they're not the only ones concerned about the social host ordinance.
"Many of the cities, especially the ones with college communities in them, have the social host (law)," Jansky said. "We're the community that's probably one of the late bloomers coming through. Why did we do that? Because we wanted to do it right."
The Twin Cities suburb of Chaska passed the state's first social host ordinance in 2007, after a 19-year-old man who had attended a party in the city froze to death walking home while drunk. Now, more than 80 Minnesota cities and towns have passed some sort of social host law, and they cover more than half the state's population.
St. Cloud is one of those cities, and is home to a large student population from two schools in the area. Since St. Cloud's law went into effect three years ago, the city has seen a decline in public drunkenness, noise violations, and alcohol-related emergency room admissions.
Noise violations dropped from 418 in 2008 to 188 last year, according to data provided by St. Cloud City Attorney Matthew Staehling. Violations for disruptive intoxication declined from 14 in 2010 to three last year. And social host violations dropped from 90 three years ago to 30 last year. St. Joseph used St. Cloud's law as a template for its own.
Chief Jansky said St. John's and St. Ben's have had their own alcohol-related problems.
"Every year that I've been here for the past 12 years we've come very close to losing students because of alcohol poisoning. I think I can unequivocally say all of them were underage," said Jansky.
Even so, some students are not convinced the ordinance will stop underage drinking.
"I don't know of anyone who's underage who is going to stop drinking because of these ordinances," said Katie Zuroski, 20, a junior at St. Ben's. "I think that they're going to be sneakier about it and maybe more cautious, but I don't think that's going to change anything."
Many other students are using social media to call for better communication and more student involvement in city and school decisions. A Facebook group set up for that purpose attracted more than 1,000 members in its first three days. Even the mayor of St. Joseph joined the online discussion.
"To even consider going to a council meeting ... that would be talking about school levies for the middle school or something -- that wouldn't be something I'd instinctively go to," she said. "But if they said, 'Hey, we're talking about something that's going to influence you,' I think people would show up."
And they did.
Despite a freak spring snowstorm, dozens of students attended a St. Joseph City Council meeting on April 18, where lawmakers asked them to present ideas. That meeting had a larger student presence than Police Chief Jansky said he'd seen in his decade as chief, and he thinks it's a good sign that students are getting more involved.
Students say they hope to reduce the punishment for social hosts. They're working with St. Joseph to put city news in the campus newspaper. And they want to create a program where students work directly with the council so they're more aware of city issues that could have an impact on them. New drinking laws prompt civic action by college students
February 15, 2013
In St. Joseph, Dayton says he supports state-level checks for guns
Governor also defended his tax proposals in Wednesday question-and-answer session
ST. JOSEPH — Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he supports requiring universal background checks for gun sales in Minnesota, one of several high-profile gun proposals now before the Legislature.
Dayton also vigorously defended his proposal to overhaul the state tax code, decrying as “dishonest” those who say his plan would cost middle-class taxpayers as well as the wealthy.
The governor’s remarks came at a question-and-answer session with moderator Gary Eichten and College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University students, sponsored by the university’s McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.
Eichten asked Dayton if he backs efforts to extend background checks to gun sales between private individuals and other sales now exempt from such checks.
“From the standpoint of common sense, that’s something I hope they’ll advance in the Legislature, and I’ll certainly support it,” Dayton said.
After the session, Dayton said he supported a federal requirement for universal background checks on gun sales when he served in the U.S. Senate. He said he now supports such a requirement at the state level.
A bill to address that issue was one of several gun proposals discussed in highly charged public hearings last week in the Minnesota House.
When asked if he would sign one of the bills implementing the universal-background-check requirement, Dayton said: “I won’t sign anything until I’ve read it, but again, I support the principle.”
President Barack Obama called for a federal requirement for universal background checks during his visit to Minneapolis last week.
Dayton also rejected suggestions that his budget proposal, released last month, would hurt the middle class. His plan to overhaul the tax code would hike tobacco taxes and income tax rates on the wealthy, broaden the sales tax to many services and some clothing purchases while lowering the rate, and give property-tax rebates of as much as $500 to homeowners.
“My tax proposals have always been specifically targeted at those who can most afford to pay more,” Dayton said.