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Dan Glickman, 74, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Democratic congressman from Kansas, is hooded Dec. 7 with an honorary doctorate in philosophy, at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., before giving the graduate school commencement address. Photo taken Dec. 7, 2018, in Manhattan, Kans. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

Wildcats! Former Secretary Glickman hooded at KSU graduation ceremony

As a proud Dakotan, I am thrilled just now to be thinking of a newly-minted Kansas State University Wildcat!

If you've jumped ahead to the idea that I am referring to Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, you're right!

Yes, Glickman, 74, was the graduate school commencement speaker and received an honorary doctor of philosophy degree at KSU in Manhattan, Kan., on Dec. 7. Coincidentally our son, Nick, received his doctorate "hood" in agricultural economics on the same day.

Thought for food

I'd met Glickman a number of times addressing the North American Agricultural Journalists at our annual meetings in Washington in the 1990s, and early 2000s, so enjoyed catching up with him in Manhattan.

In government, Glickman defined public service, statesmanship and food awareness.

He grew up in urban Wichita, Kan. His Jewish family was in the scrap iron, oil and gas business, an independent oil and gas company, and a Triple-A baseball team. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a history degree and went on for a law degree from George Washington University.

He worked in a Wichita law firm, and then with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He ran for Congress in 1976, serving for 18 years until being defeated in 1994, where he served on the House Agriculture Committee. In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed him secretary of agriculture. Glickman left office in 2001.

He became director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He went on to chair the Motion Picture Association of America, serving as chief lobbyist for the movie industry. (Glickman would quip that he went from "growing popcorn" as ag secretary to "selling popcorn" in the movie industry.)

In his folksy speech style, Glickman emphasized to graduates the need for bipartisanship and "middle-of-the-road" American politics. He touted a long, strong relationship in the House with Pat Roberts, a Republican who went on to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Today, Glickman is vice president of the Aspen Institute and executive director of its congressional program, a "civility-building" program to build personal connections between members of Congress of different parties.

Glickman urged fellow honorees in different fields to grapple with issues of diet, nutrition and health, as well as water availability and biosecurity.

"America must be actively engaged in the world," Glickman said. "Efforts to withdraw to become unilateral are not only not healthy for America but dangerous for the rest of the world as well. "Climate change is real but can be dealt with with science and with good judgment," he said, adding that KSU and land grant colleges have a role in "providing food sustainably for a hungry and peaceful world."

Science, belief

Glickman emphasized that the American political system "only works" with the "grease of compromise and consensus." Yes, partisanship has its place, but it's "not good when it leads to gridlock," he said.

He underlined the value of a self-deprecating sense of humor as a tool in politics and in life. He recalled that former President Bill Clinton joked that, only he "would ask a Jewish secretary of agriculture (Glickman) to actively promote the pork industry." And Glickman smiled: "And I did that with great relish because it was good for America. I didn't have to eat it, but I was going to sell it."

Coincidentally, just prior to this year's graduation festivities, famed KSU football coach Bill Snyder, 79, announced he was stepping down after 27 seasons. At the podium, Glickman joked that he would not accept the KSU head coach position, if offered, because he was simply "too young" for the job.

And the final coincidence: North Dakota State University's coach Chris Klieman, 51, accepted the KSU job — another new Wildcat.

While I wish Klieman all the best with his $2.5 million salary, he will — for me — take his place well behind the purple pride of two other Wildcats — Glickman and, of course, "Doctor Nick.'