Dan Glickman is a BPC senior fellow, and he co-chairs its Commission on Political Reform, Democracy Project, Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative, and Task Force on Defense Budget and Strategy.
Glickman is the executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, a nongovernmental, nonpartisan educational program for members of the United States Congress. Previously, he was chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA), which serves as the voice and advocate of the U.S. motion picture, home video, and television industries. Prior to joining the MPAA, Glickman was the director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Glickman also served as a partner and senior advisor to the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington.
Glickman served as the U.S. secretary of agriculture from March 1995 until January 2001. Under his leadership, the Department of Agriculture administered farm and conservation programs, modernized food-safety regulations, forged international trade agreements to expand U.S. markets, and improved its commitment to fairness and equality in civil rights.
Before his appointment, Glickman represented the 4th Congressional District of Kansas for 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. During that time, he was a member of the House Agriculture Committee, including six years as chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over federal farm policy issues. Moreover, he was an active member of the House Judiciary Committee, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and was a leading congressional expert on general aviation policy.
As a member of Congress from 1977-1995, I would periodically read the words of Daniel Webster, inscribed directly above the Speaker's chair, which reminded us that we were there to do something “worthy to be remembered.” In our amazing democracy, those words remind elected officials that the prime purpose of their jobs is to do the public business in a way and manner that all of us would be proud of, especially the American people. Even in disagreement in a vibrant democracy, the goal is always to engage the issues in a way that our descendants would be proud, and gets the job done for the people.
But the challenges of the current era sometimes make Webster’s admonition difficult to achieve. The pressures on elected officials are enormous, the role of the media is materially different than even 20 years ago, the constant race for campaign funds makes spending time on substantive issues a real chore, the issues themselves are much more complicated, and in the process the public has become more and more disenchanted with the competence of their elected officials, and in some cases with our democracy itself.
The goal of our Commission on Political Reform is to drill down deeply into the causes of the public alienation with the political process and to hear from the American people what can be done to make our political system and the operations of our Congress more relevant and more responsive to the American people. And in that process, to find ways where public service and civic engagement in that political system is more attractive.
The American political system in unparalleled in its historic success, and in the preservation of our national liberties. But to maintain that system, to maintain American leadership at home and abroad, requires a great deal of confidence building. Our goal in this commission is not only to understand what’s wrong, and how to try to remedy some of these problems, but also to build on the strengths needed to keep our system flourishing and strong. And in the process, our freedoms and liberties strengthened and enhanced, so that we can continue to “do things worthy to be remembered.”