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Orval & June Hansen provide perspective and inspire students

Orval and June Hansen
Orval and June Hansen

When University of Idaho alumnus (’50) and former U.S. and Idaho Congressman Orval Hansen recently visited the Moscow campus and spoke to classes and individual students, he said he wanted to encourage students to think of themselves as part of an international community.

It is a common theme heard on college campuses today. But for Hansen this is the way he has lived his life — from his World War II service in the Navy to his over twenty years in state and federal office, and as a private citizen involved in many organizations and endeavors.

“I encourage them, in whatever profession or line of endeavor, to become interested in public policy, and to understand public policy in their own area of expertise. . . and help your fellow citizens understand.”

However, he also realizes this can be a tough sell these days.

“Not as many see politics as a life goal . . . The current combative political scene has discouraged students.” He went on to explain that the climate was very different when he served in the Congress.

“There weren’t the extremes — on both sides, and we had to work things out. . . Now, the middle is gone and you can’t or won’t come together. Politics is polarized. But the country is not polarized. The country is down the middle.”

It is precisely this perspective and Hansen’s widely respected ability to “work across the aisle” that prompted Bill Smith, Director of the Martin Institute and Program in International Studies to invite him to speak to students.

“If you talk about a legacy of leading, he’s been a leader while he was here at the university, later in Congress and then in many diverse fields — and he continues to be a leader today.”

Smith also added, “Much of what we try to impress on our students is how to recognize differences and resolve conflicts,” said Smith. “It’s also the main mission of the Martin Institute.”

The Martin Institute was founded by Boyd and Grace Martin in 1979. Boyd Martin also taught political science at the University of Idaho for more than three decades. In fact, Martin was one of Hansen’s major professors and a profound influence.

“Boyd Martin would really be proud,” said Hansen of the growth in the international studies program and the impressive quality of the students involved.

Joining Hansen on his return to campus was his wife June, a noted stage actress, whose lengthy career even included gracing the stage of the Hartung Theater in a production of “Women in Shakespeare” many years ago. Preferring plays over policy, June attended Kelly Quinnett’s acting class and Dean Panttaja’s graduate seminar. She said the students were “very attentive” and she was encouraged by their interest in all aspects of the theatre.

“I’m an entertainer, not a teacher . . . so I think they were entertained.”

When asked if politics/law and theatre had anything in common, both Orval and June laughed, “Yes! Of course they do.”

June explained, “Acting is about watching people and trying to understand how they behave.”

“In elected politics, you are on stage all the time,” Orval added. “And you are trying to portray knowledge and sincerity, so you can reach people. You need to emotionally win their support for a cause.”

Hopefully, as Hansen continues to share his experience and knowledge with university students he will be able to “reach” the next generation of policy makers.

  • By Micki Panttaja

The Martin Institute

Physical Address:
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University of Idaho
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