U lecture series hosts Tom Daschle

Matt Graham

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., addressed approximately 300 people Monday at Cowles Auditorium at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs as part of the Martin Olav Sabo Lecture Series.

Daschle, who has served as majority and minority leader of the Senate, gave a speech on the differences between the Democratic Party’s and Republican Party’s definitions of “freedom.”

“The debate is not over whether to be free, of course, but there are stark differences between how we define ‘freedom,’ ” he said.

Daschle said President George W. Bush “is part of a long line of conservatives who view freedom as freedom from government Ö but I think this vision of freedom, and the policies founded upon it, misunderstand the difference between choice and freedom.”

Daschle said part of freedom for U.S. citizens is the freedom to have economic security.

“Can we call it freedom, when someone’s choice is to pay the pharmacist’s bill or the grocery bill?” he said. “Freedom has to be more than the freedom to fail.”

Daschle listed his top priorities as affordable health care and education, jobs and retirement security.

He said the rapidly increasing cost of college tuition nationwide is a problem the entire country must address.

“I don’t think (higher education) has anything to do with spending; I think it has to do with investing Ö there should be universal access to college education in this country,” he said.

Daschle said the country’s oil policy needs an overhaul.

“I think the decision to drill in (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) is one of the worst pieces of legislation that has been passed Ö I think the fact that we, with 4 percent of the world’s population, are using 25 percent of the world’s oil supply is reprehensible,” he said.

Daschle and Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., said they disagree with Bush’s plan to overhaul Social Security.

“The problem is not the Social Security trust fund,” the problem is the huge national deficit, Sabo said.

Daschle said it is important for Democrats not to overreact to Republican successes during the last decade when planning for future campaigns.

“Keep in mind, (former Vice President) Al Gore won more popular votes than George (W.) Bush, and 60,000 votes in the last election (in Ohio) could have reversed the tide there,” he said.

Daschle said he thinks the Democratic Party needs to speak to all 50 states and stop focusing on a few highly contested swing states.

But he said he is enjoying his current role outside of politics and has no immediate plans to run for elected office again.

Megan Mowday, a graduate student in urban and regional planning, said she enjoyed listening to Daschle.

“I was happy he addressed the health-care and Social Security issues,” she said.

Garret Rasmusen, a University sophomore, said he was glad Daschle talked about Social Security and health care but wished Daschle would have spent more time addressing the environment.