Mathis discusses career in politics
By Katie Gonzalez
Published on Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The future of politics depends on the participation of young people in government, former Rep. Marvin Dawson Mathis, D-Ga., said during a lecture as part of the fourth annual Congress to Campus series on Tuesday. During the informal discussion, Mathis recounted his experience as a member of the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1981.
Mathis stressed the importance of student participation in politics and government.
"Somebody's going to run the government," Mathis said. "It may as well be the best and the brightest, and I think you find those people at Dartmouth."
Mathis cited apathy and ignorance as major problems for both constituents and public officials today.
"It is very important that our young people don't become disinterested in politics," Mathis said. "If I was 21 years old today, I'd be leading a rebellion in the street."
Mathis also criticized former President George W. Bush, calling the Bush administration a time of "irresponsible government."
"The road is now steeper, rockier and less hopeful," Mathis said. "I admire and respect President Obama, but I sure wouldn't want his problems. It's going to be a tough slog."
This year's Congress to Campus theme, "The Road Ahead: Rocky, Steep and Hopeful," is especially relevant to Obama's first 100 days as president, Mathis added.
During the event, Mathis recalled several highlights of his congressional career, including his appointment to the Agricultural Committee and the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter, who hailed from his district.
"I had known Jimmy for years," Mathis said. "I supported him in his bid for election. But he did not rely on his friends in Congress to the extent that he should have."
Mathis evoked laughter from the audience with a story about his arrival in Washington as a congressman at age 29.
"I was a young man with hay in my hair and riding into D.C. on a turnip truck," Mathis said.
Mathis compared the political dynamics during the time he spent in Congress to the current state of affairs on Capitol Hill, saying he never spent more than $16,000 on a congressional campaign.
"When I went to Washington, you could reach across that aisle and work with the other party," Mathis said. "I don't see that today. There is no end to the campaign. What we need to be doing is sit across the table as friends and allies to figure out what we need to do to make our country better."
Mathis also discussed his failed attempt to run for a seat in the Senate, saying that he was restless after serving four terms in the House.After losing the election, he became a lobbyist.
"The one thing I did decide to do was to exert a little influence over the Congress people I had worked with," Mathis said.
Former Rep. Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., who had also been scheduled to speak, was unable to attend the program due to pneumonia, according to Judy Fothergill, events administrator for the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.
In her absence, Kelly sent written remarks for the audience to read in which she criticized the size and power of the federal government.
The Congress to Campus series is a nationwide program sponsored by the American Association of Former Members of Congress that sends a Democrat and a Republican to different college campuses each year.
The Congress to Campus series at Dartmouth was co-sponsored by the Rockefeller Center and the government department.