By Daniel C. Houston
Former U.S. House Rep. Chet Edwards stopped by Dr Pepper Hour Tuesday to introduce himself to students during his first week as a part-time lecturer and distinguished chair of public service at Baylor.
Edwards, who represented the Waco area in Congress as a Democrat for 20 years, made his first appearance as a lecturer in several classes this week. He will continue to give lectures this semester on constitutional development, American national government, international relations and public service internship courses.
“If I can be a positive influence in the life of one student here at Baylor, then that would be very meaningful to me,” Edwards said at a Tuesday morning press event. “I’ll always revere this great university. It has a legacy of developing leaders in business and government, in our churches and houses of worship, and now to be officially part of that family is a wonderful new chapter in my life.”
As part of his chairmanship, Edwards will assist the W. R. Poage Legislative Library staff with moving his congressional papers to the Baylor archives.
“It is my hope that perhaps through the study of these 20 years in Congress, young people might learn that public service really still should be a noble calling,” Edwards said. “Our democracy is imperfect, the people who serve in it are imperfect, but it’s still the greatest democracy in the history of the world.”
Ben Rogers, director of the Poage library, said Edwards’ papers will be a valuable future resource for students and researchers who want to view historical events that occurred during Edwards’ career through the window of his congressional office.
“Thirty or 40 years from now,” Rogers said, “things about the Clinton impeachment, 9/11 [or] any historical event that happened during those 20 years are going to be reflected in these papers, which is true of all of the congressional papers. It’s not just papers; it’s about people.”
12 congressmen have now stored their records in the Poage Library, including Edwards and the library’s namesake, former Rep. William Poage, Rogers said. Edwards said Poage is one of his personal heroes.
One of the students with whom Edwards spoke at Dr Pepper Hour was Houston sophomore David Hornbeak.
Hornbeak, who is a member of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, said Edwards was very friendly and their conversation flipped between humorous anecdotes and a discussion on the importance of servant-leadership.
“What he said was, you have to be able to take direction and also give direction in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s pushed on someone,” Hornbeak said. “[Edwards said you have to] be able to find the nice balance of being a follower and a leader at the same time and serving others in the process.”
Edwards, whose congressional career came to an end after losing his bid for re-election to Republican Bill Flores in November, said he will likely be on campus about two or three weeks per semester.
Although he will not be the sole lecturer for any courses, he will appear at the invitation of professors teaching courses within his field of expertise.