Durbin Visits SIUC for Pizza and Politics

The Southern Illinoisan
April 8, 2010
CARBONDALE - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin visited the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIUC to give students tips for getting started in politics.

The event was part of the Pizza and Politics series, in which the institute provides pizza and a politician to speak to students. Institute Director David Yepsen went over Durbin's past as someone who "came up the hard way" in politics.

Durbin, after insisting students should have something to eat before listening to him, said he got his start in politics through a series of accidents. He said he was a student at Georgetown University when a roommate took an internship with Sen. Paul Douglas' office. After hearing stories from his roommate, he decided to join as well, signing letters for Douglas.

He eventually became Douglas' advance man in election season for downstate Illinois. He said he was supposed to meet a state senator he had never heard of in West Frankfort, who turned out to be Paul Simon. Durbin said working with Simon molded his political career and after three failed election attempts and constant encouragement from Simon, he became a member of the U.S. House and, later a U.S. senator.

He told students that getting into politics included "a lot of luck and being around the right people who inspired and taught you." He said students didn't have to look far to see a good launching point.

"You're doing the right thing," Durbin said. "You're in school."

Durbin fielded questions regarding how Credit Default Swaps contributed to the recession and how they could be controlled and what can be done about excessive filibusters. Tyler Chance, a freshman in political science from West Frankfort, said he appreciated Durbin coming to campus and taking part in a constructive conversation.

"The senator was very honest and humorous at points and gave us good advice on pursuing political careers," Chance said.