Monmouth College will host its fourth annual Midwest Matters forum on Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. in Wells Theater. This year’s keynote speaker is Brad McMillan, executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership at Bradley University.
Titled “Are You Fed Up with the 2012 Elections Yet? How Our Midwest Heritage Offers an Alternate Style of Leadership,” the forum is free and open to the public. It is part of the college’s comprehensive effort to research, analyze and celebrate the traditions, trends and future prospects for America’s heartland.
“I’ve worked with Brad McMillan previously and he exhibits the qualities in leadership that the institute espouses,” said MC political science lecturer Robin Johnson. “There is no better time to have him on campus than during the final stretch of a presidential campaign.”
In his remarks, McMillan, who has served as the institute’s director since it opened in 2007, will likely repeat a favorite story of how President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, relied on Senate Majority Leader and Illinois Republican Everett Dirksen to get the votes needed to pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.
McMillan served as chief of staff for Peoria congressman (now Transportation Secretary) Ray LaHood for 10 years. During a discussion in Robin Johnson’s MC classroom two years ago, he told of being invited by Congressman Bob Michel to dinners with Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill at the famous Bullfeathers of Capitol Hill.
“They actually had a friendship,” McMillan said. “They treated each other with respect, and they found common ground where they could.”
He said that differs from today’s approach, which he likens to “throwing hand grenades” at the other party.
“We have a rich history of leaders in our area who knew how to work across party lines for the good of the country, without all the fighting,” McMillan said. “I hold out hope that we can turn the clock back to a more reasonable and civil situation.”
McMillan’s emphasis on civility dovetails nicely with Monmouth College’s strategic plan, which was released earlier this year. One of its four focal points is inspiring students to lead and serve society using democratic principles. It reads, in part, “We will create a campus environment that instills in our students the ability and desire to construct arguments that are as civil as they are persuasive.”
McMillan believes that bipartisanship and a return to civility are worth striving for, even if results can’t be seen immediately.