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Iowa governor Branstad speaks to MC students via Skype

Barry McNamara
Gov. Branstad speaks to Monmouth College political science students via Skype.
Two entities that firmly believe the “Midwest Matters” crossed paths last week, when Iowa governor Terry Branstad spoke to a Monmouth College class via Skype.

Branstad serves as chairman of the Midwest Governor’s Association (MGA), and one of his priorities in that role is renewing the Midwest brand. That dovetails nicely with the college’s Midwest Matters initiative, which was unveiled in the fall of 2009.

“My Citizenship class this semester, Politics and Government in the Midwest, is examining the Midwest region from a variety of perspectives including political, economic, cultural and demographic,” explained political science lecturer Robin Johnson, who invited Gov. Branstad to campus. “In collaboration with MGA staff in Washington, D.C., I had small groups of my students design scripts for videos on ‘What It Means To Be A Midwesterner.’ That’s how we got the attention of Gov. Branstad, and he gladly accepted the invitation to speak. He was unable to be here in person because the legislature is in session, but I’m hoping this successful event lays the groundwork for him to visit campus in the near future.”

“As part of the charge to promote a positive Midwestern narrative, the MGA will seek opportunities to renew the Midwestern brand, drive innovation and improve the region’s entrepreneurial network,” said Branstad. “The MGA will identify and highlight the unique strengths of Midwestern states to develop and communicate a positive Midwestern image, including promoting the Midwest’s impact on the global economy.”

The 2012 chair’s agenda also strives to support states’ efforts to increase domestic/Midwestern energy production across all types of energy to help maintain or achieve low energy costs.

“Midwestern governors will work together to identify development opportunities and barriers, and will create cross-state strategies to achieve these goals,” added Branstad.

Johnson said his class been defining the Midwest as a region and a people and “even challenging the whole notion that the Midwest really exists. Our ‘What It Means To Be A Midwesterner’ project was gathered from discussions with Gov. Branstad that soliciting such videos from college students throughout the Midwest could be an agenda item. They want to make the Midwest ‘cool’ and appeal to young people.”

Johnson’s students are not only finding out it’s cool to be in the Midwest, but it’s also cool to be in his class. Earlier in the semester, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) spoke in person to the students.

The talk with Gov. Branstad was interesting,” said senior Rachel Holm of Oregon. “When we started the Skype, he referred to the Midwest as the ‘Rust Belt’ and then later said we need to get away from the Rust Belt name. He was very excited about revamping the Midwest.”

“I appreciated Gov. Branstad taking the time to speak with our class,” added senior Mikael Mueller of Monmouth. “He is obviously very knowledgeable about the economic and political situation here in the Midwest. He gave us some excellent insight as to where our region is heading in the near future.”