Tag Archives: History

Lectures on Politics at Loyola Marymount University

Former Congressman Marty Russo lectures on politics, the Congress and the Presidents he served under.

It was a pleasure to visit the beautiful campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA and talk with the students about politics, lobbying and how to make a difference in Washington.  We discussed the nature of leadership and influence and how our Democracy is designed to work through influence, not power.

Prezi on Leadership and Influence

Our Prezi on Leadership and Influence

It was fun to use a “Prezi” to take the class through the discussion that started with LMU, zoomed over to the Congress, made a side visit to the Jefferson Memorial, zoomed to The White House and then ended back at LMU.

In the Prezi slides at the Congress we talked about how many people have a misconception that our legislature works based on power — my view is that Congress works based on having influence.  The Jefferson Memorial slides offered a great place to talk about the founding of our country and the Declaration of Independence.  In the US we have a right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  It is part of our 1st Amendment freedoms  That is the definition of what a lobbyist does.

Leadership and Public Service Award

Leadership and Public Service Award from some great LMU student leaders

The White House Prezi slides gave a good backdrop to stories about the four Presidents in office while I served in Congress.

As a product of the Jesuit educational system, I especially enjoyed ending with slides back at LMU with a discussion of “Servant Leadership.”  To be both a servant and a leader at the same time is the paradox at the basis of Jesuit education.

It was an honor to be presented with the “Leadership and Public Service Award.”





Cherry Blossom Princess 2014

Cherry Blossom Princess 2014

Marty Russo crowns Illinois Cherry Blossom Princess 2014, Lauren Eiten

Illinois State Society:

60 years of crowning the Cherry Blossom Princess

It was great to hear recently from Mark Rhoads of the Illinois State Society.  You can read some interesting history on Illinois dating back to 1867 by checking out his history blog.  Mark’s book, is called Land of Lincoln, Thy Wondrous Story and it received a great review from the State Journal Register. Mark also sent me some fun photos of 60 years of crowning the Illinois State Society Cherry Blossom  (see slide show, below — click to cycle through photos).  Check out Senator Everett Dirksen, Governor Adlai Stevenson, and others.

Holiday Cheer with Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden

Vice President Joseph Biden, Karen Russo, Marty Russo, Dr. Jill Biden

Vice President Joseph Biden, Karen Russo, Marty Russo, Dr. Jill Biden

Speaking with John Lawrence About The Watergate Class of 1974


Marty Russo being sworn into office on January 3, 1975 with Speaker Carl Albert.

It was very enjoyable to meet with John Lawrence earlier this week to be interviewed for his book in progress about the 1974 “Watergate class” of Congress.

We sat for several hours at John’s office at the University of California Washington Center where he is a visiting professor. John knows an enormous amount about Democratic Congressional leadership over the last few decades. He served nearly 8 years as chief of staff to Speaker (and Democratic Leader) Nancy Pelosi as well as spending the previous 30 years as chief of staff to one of my best friends, Congressman George Miller of Martinez, California. John is a true legislative and political pro and it is fun to read hardline political news and analysis in his DOMEocracy Blog.

Thinking back to my initial election to Congress in 1974, as a moderate Democrat running for office for the first time it was totally unexpected that I would be elected in a majority Republican district. As I told John, no one thought I had a chance to win. The post-Watergate mood resulted in many Republicans staying home on election day and I was elected with 53% of the vote.

Coming to Congress as part of that large 1974 Watergate Freshman Class, I had a very different profile than many of my liberally minded Democrat colleagues who had run against President Nixon. They were all very fired up about liberal issues and shaking up the traditional Congressional leadership structure.

Those first few years, I didn’t always agree with that agenda. In contrast, I was a former State’s Attorney prosecutor so I was tough on crime, fiscally conservative, and very respectful of tradition and precedent. My campaign focused narrowly on issues important to the district. I’m not even sure we ever mentioned the national issues that my new Congressional Democratic colleagues had pushed in their elections.

It was interesting to answer John’s insightful questions and tell the story of those initial years in Congress and my first attempts to learn the inner workings of politics and the legislative process. I am fortunate that I developed many friends in all political factions: Moderate Democrats, Conservative Southern Democrats, Moderate Republicans, Conservative Republicans, … and eventually Liberal Democrats.

In those days of the 1970’s and 1980’s, it was possible to create strong friendships across the political aisle. We may have disagreed on a legislative issue, but when we played a competitive game of basketball or went traveling in a CODEL, we were just people who could discuss issues and respect each other’s perspective.

It doesn’t seem like that is the case now. There has always been partisanship, but I am not seeing those personal friendships across the aisle that can bridge the gap in understanding and respecting opposite points of view.

I believe the best way to address our country’s issues is to create these understandings and work together for the good of America..

Lecturer at Loyola Marymount University

Lecturer at Loyola Marymount University

Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles Lecture

I was honored to speak to several political science classes at LMU on November 11, 2013, as part of a visit with Department Chair Dr. Michael Genovese and Associate Professor Dr. Janie Steckenrider.    LMU has a vibrant program for developing future leaders that understand the role of politics and government in our society.

Dr. Genovese is an author of over 30 books on leadership including his latest, Leadership Matters:  Unleashing the Power of Paradox.  I enjoyed reading through the book which includes stories of leadership in all sort of facets of society:  from history to politics to Hollywood.

I had to laugh along with Dr.  Steckenrider as we both remembered that she attended one of my early political fundraisers at the Condessa Del Mar in Alsip, Illinois back when I was campaigning for re-election in 1976.

We agreed that politics and public policy has changed dramatically since those days. In the 1980’s I served as a Deputy Whip and had a front row seat to watch House Speaker Tip O’Neill work out deals with President Ronald Reagan.  I’d like to see more of that today.  The country needs the art of compromise to help us grow businesses and jobs.