As stated in a previous post, the College recently announced that Governor Douglas will serve as Executive in Residence this J-Term. I talked with the Governor over Skype earlier this week about both the upcoming Residency and his student years. Take a look at the excerpts below or download an mp3 of the whole interview (lightly edited to remove greetings and some of my “ums”).http://middmedia.middlebury.edu/media/jpallen/MiddBlog%20Douglas%20Interview.mp3″
MiddBlog: What is the Residency, and how did it come about?
Governor Douglas: [President Liebowitz] asked me. Upon learning of my decision to leave government he suggested that [my] experience and knowledge might be of value to the College, and I jumped at the opportunity. I decided to offer a Winter Term course on Vermont government and politics, since that’s what I’ve been doing all these years.
MB: The College’s press release and an article in the Addison County Independent both mentioned that you’ll also be advising students who are interested in politics. What does that mean? Do you know what it means yet?
JD: That’s a part of the relationship with the College that’s still evolving. [I]t’s been a half-century since a Middlebury alumnus served as governor [Robert Stafford]. [T]he President and others on campus believe that the 38 years I’ve spent since leaving Middlebury [College] have been full of exciting opportunities and experiences, and they want to [give me] a chance to share them. We’ll see what develops in terms of exactly what role I’ll play.
MB: You’ve done a lot of public speaking, but what particular challenges do you anticipate from teaching?
JD: It’ll certainly be a different kind of experience, although I’ve been involved in a lot of interactive settings before. I could spend far more than the hours allotted telling war stories from my political career, but … I always want to be sure that what I have to say is of interest and relevant to the audience, so I hope the students will participate actively. … If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get some good ideas from the students about where the state should go from here.
MB: Middlebury has a liberal student body; do you expect to be challenged on some issues by your students? Are you looking forward to it?
JD: We’re a liberal state, let alone the campus, so I’ve always had to swim upstream in my political career. [Vermonters] often are prepared to support someone even if they don’t agree with him or her on everything, as long as someone is straightforward and sincere. I certainly welcome whatever discussions might ensue.
MB: I’ve read that you were active in the College Republicans. Beyond that, what was your life like at the College?
JD: I was heavily involved in WRMC. … We didn’t have blogs in those days, so that was an important source of information and entertainment. … I was News Director for a couple of years and really enjoyed [it]. That, and my service as Young Republican Chairman on campus and state-wide, along with my academic pursuits, pretty much consumed my time.
MB: As a senior wondering what to do next, I’m pretty amazed that you went almost immediately from college to public office [as a state representative]. Were you campaigning during your senior year?
JD: No, I didn’t become a candidate until after I graduated. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up — sometimes I don’t think I do now — but I’d been interested in the political process and there was a vacancy in the legislative delegation from Middlebury, so I decided to go after it. I worked very hard, knocked on every door in the district, which then was three towns, and won a contested primary and general election. It was a great opportunity to get involved.
MB: How will your relationship with Middlebury College change in the future?
JD: We’re still working on what the long-term relationship means [and] how it will look, and I will be having some further conversations with President Liebowitz very soon.
MB: Anything in particular you’re looking forward to about working at the College?
JD: [Middlebury is] a community in which I’ve lived ever since leaving college, so it’ll be a much shorter commute than I’ve been used to. I look forward to spending more time with folks in the community. … I’ll cut my carbon footprint, that’s for sure. … It’s going to be fun to get back on campus after a 30-year hiatus. I’ve been in public office for most of that time and hope and believe I have something to impart to the next generation of leaders. I look forward to spending time with students.