Former South Dakota Gov. William Janklow has never dodged any question about his three-decade run as a public servant for the state.
Janklow spent 16 years as the state's chief executive, the most in the history of the state. He also served one year in the United State House of Representatives and was South Dakota's attorney general from 1975-1979.
Janklow now hopes to tap into his vast experience and share a little of what he's learned over the years with University of South Dakota students.
"I spent a lot of years in the public life, and students have questions with what I did, how I did it and why I did it," Janklow said. "I think that young people have a unique opportunity to get the answers from the horse's mouth, and I am willing to do that."
Janklow could be sharing stories about his time in public life with USD students as soon as the 2010 spring semester. Janklow has had discussions with Dr. William Richardson, chairman of the Department of Political Science, about coming to talk a couple times to a senior-level political science class about South Dakota politics.
"It's a little ways off yet, but a faculty member will teach the class and prepare them for a given topic. Then hopefully Janklow can break free and speak on that topic," Richardson said. "Whether he will be able to come and do that more than two or three times next semester, well, we don't know yet."
The class would be capped at 20 students, and Richardson said Janklow has shown interest in helping out with a class.
"For some time, we have always sought to bring in former elected officials to talk to our students, and he has expressed interest," he said. "He has been so busy with other matters, but now he has some timing and some interest in talking with some students about the politics and history of South Dakota."
Janklow has been asked in the past to come and speak to classes and give speeches at universities throughout the state, but he said no to a lot of the engagements.
But a couple of acquaintances helped persuade Janklow to take the opportunity to share his experiences.
"Two individuals, one in the press and the other was a friend of mine, were critical of me not doing that; they said I was being selfish," Janklow said. "They said I owe it to history to explain why I did the things I did to students who can analyze it. I thought about it, and said 'maybe that's right.' "
So Janklow, who is working as an attorney in Sioux Falls now, returned last spring to USD – the same university where he received his law degree.
Janklow came and talked to a class taught by Professor Mary Pat Bierle, and Richardson said it went very well.
"It was a resounding success; he took them through a journey, and even I sat in and learned more about some very important events in South Dakota," he said. "Then he had dinner with the class. They had more exposure to South Dakota politics than they ever could've imagined."
The class consisted of about 30 to 35 students, and Janklow said all of the students came prepared with questions for him.
"I felt their questions were relevant, to the point and addressed the issues," he said. "I had a ton of fun. I love younger people, and it's rejuvenating to be around them."
No topic was off-limits to Janklow, who, while serving as South Dakota's Congressman in August 2003, ran a stop sign while speeding and killed motorcyclist Randy Scott.
In December 2003, Janklow was convicted by a Moody County jury of second-degree manslaughter. A few days later, he resigned his seat in Congress.
"I answer them very directly. Nothing can be more tragic than taking a person's life. I carry that with me every day of my life," Janklow said. "Nobody can be a harsher critic of me than myself. It was an accident and I wish I could take it back.
"It's brought up, and sometimes they are too nervous to ask me, but I can tell what they are going to ask and I answer it. I owe them that," Janklow added.
Richardson said Janklow didn't shy away from the topic when he was asked about it in th
"He let them ask any questions up front, and he entertains them up front," he said. "If they wish to ask about it, he is not a shy man, and he is willing to talk about it and is quite candid."
In fact, Janklow answers most of the questions that are asked of him, especially ones that indicate that not all South Dakotans favored the approach he often took to get things done as governor.
"I hear all the time people say 'well I like what you did, but didn't like how you did it,' so I am always tempted to ask 'give me an example of something I did that you like, but didn't like how I did it,' " he said. "They just look at me with a blank stare.
"I did it the way I did it because we tried to get it done. No one accused me of ever ignoring the problems," Janklow added. "I thought my job was to deal with problems they couldn't deal with in their own communities. I wasn't afraid to take issues head on. I guess history can decide whether we did the right thing or the wrong thing."