Former Senator Larry Pressler on his new book
He spent decades serving his country between the U.S. Army, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Now, Larry Pressler can add something else to his long list of achievements: Author of a new book. It's an autobiography called "Senator Larry Pressler: An Independent Mission to Save Our Democracy".
A Rhodes Scholar, War Hero, graduate of Harvard Law School and distinguished, decades-long leader in Washington among others, you'd think writing a book would come easy to Larry Pressler.
Not so much.
"That's one of the hardest things I've done is to write a book. I wrote nearly 1,000 pages and I had to cut it down to 200 in order to get it published... people won't read more than 150 pages," Senator Larry Pressler said.
The 74-year-old former Senator says the 155 pages are meant to inspire.
"It takes some initiative and courage to go into politics. I think South Dakota is one of the few states left where a person from a lower, middle income groups can run for office," Pressler said.
With a focus on politics, Pressler says we must work hard to preserve our democracy.
"There's so much apathy and people don't vote. More importantly, they should prepare to vote. I''m not just for people voting. There's a lot of misinformation on the internet, cable channels, elsewhere. People have to work at voting," Pressler said. "They can't expect to just have a beer in one hand, listen to 30-second ads and vote intelligently. I'm really pleading with people not just to vote but to work and prepare themselves to vote."
Pressler became a member of the Independent Party not long ago, in which, he led an unsuccessful campaign for South Dakota's open U.S. Senate seat in 2014.
"A lot of independents, you'll be ahead in the polls but voters don't vote because they're apathetic or there's not "Get out to Vote" program for an independent.
"I tried to explain that in there about our two-party system. Right now, I think we need a third way or a new party," Pressler said.
During our chat, I wanted to pick his brain about the current presidential election. He says there's no such thing as a perfect candidate.
"We're in an era where, sort of reverse, you usually vote for the candidate you like the most. With all the negatives of peoples' personalities being reported, we don't like them but there isn't a perfect candidate out there. This makes it especially hard," he said.
He says the old way of life is gone. Today, we need to work harder to get more educated and, more importantly, to vote.
"Since the coming of the internet, we actually have less information about senate and house candidates. We have 'gossip' about presidential candidates but very little about the real issue. We may lose our democracy unless people are willing to vote," he said.
He looks back on his many days in office and, now, onto the pages of his latest accomplishment.
"It won't be a money-maker, political books are not because people are skeptical about politicians' books but this one is from the heart," Pressler said.
These days, the former Senator spends a lot of time with his family and volunteering. He says his days of running for office, or any other major position, are over.
BIOGRAPHY: SENATOR LARRY PRESSLER
Admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, New York Bar, and District of Columbia Bar
[Member US Senate (R-SD), 1979-1997]
[Member US House (R-SD), 1975-1979]
EDUCATION/ PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:
- Born March 29, 1942, Humboldt, South Dakota
- Harvard Law School- Juris Doctor, 1971
- Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government- Masters in Public Administration
- Oxford University, Oxford, England – Oxford Diploma in Public and Social Administration, Rhodes Scholar, 1964
- University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD – B.A. Government, 1964; President of Student Body; Phi Beta Kappa
- Lieutenant, U.S. Army: 1966-1968
- Served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam
- Awarded the following Vietnam Service Medals: Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Service Stars, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon with Device (1960), Overseas Svc Bars (2), and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/Palm Unit Citation Badge
- Foreign Service Officer (Geneva, Switzerland): 1971-1974
- Legal Advisor's Office, Washington, D.C. and Geneva, Switzerland
Former United States Senator Larry Pressler lives in Washington, D.C. and is a lawyer, speaker, and writer. Upon completing twenty-two years in Congress, Senator Pressler has dedicated much of his life to business and teaching. He recently published a book entitled Senator Pressler: An Independent Mission to Save Our Democracy. He is a frequent speaker to corporations and universities—In February 2016, he spoke in Bangalore, India at the Infosys International Corporate Conference and in March 2016, he gave a series of lectures on public affairs/ethics to the Law School, the Marriott Business School, and other classes at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He is scheduled to make a major speech at Rhodes House, Oxford University on “Analyzing the American Presidential Election of 2016.” He will repeat this speech at other points in Europe and California.
Senator Larry Pressler served in the US Senate for 18 years (3 terms) and was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the US Senate. While in the US Senate, he served as Chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committees. He was also an active member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He was the principle author of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and of the “Pressler Amendment,” which limited foreign countries from using USA to develop nuclear weaponry
Prior to his election to the US Senate, Larry Pressler served two terms as a member of the US House of Representatives from 1975-1979.
He was an announced candidate for the presidency in 1980 and drew national fame and praise for flatly turning down a bribe on tape in the ABSCAM scandal.
In 2016, Senator Pressler continues to serve on a military modernization commission and on some federal boards. He is also on the Jericho Project’s Veteran Homeless Advisory Council in New York City, which has recently opened two homeless facilities for veterans in the Bronx and in Harlem. Senator Pressler was a member of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange until the NASDAQ purchased it. From 2000 to 2006, Senator Pressler was a member of the Board of Directors of Infosys Technologies, LTD in Bangalore, India. Infosys was a NASDAQ – listed company. Pressler helped Infosys get listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Senator Pressler has taught/lectured at over twenty universities, including Harvard and UCLA. He was a Fulbright professor in both Italy and Science Po in Paris, France.
Senator Pressler won three terms in the United States Senate in South Dakota. Some of his election victories were the largest in the state’s history. He was defeated in 1996 over the issue of taxation in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which he had sponsored. In 2014, Senator Pressler ran as an Independent for the United States Senate in South Dakota. South Dakota’s four largest newspapers endorsed him, including the two largest: the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the Rapid City Journal. Senator Angus King (I-ME) also endorsed him. He held the lead a month before the election, but dropped in the polls after becoming the target of millions of dollars worth of negative ads from both political parties, who feared the election of another Independent to the US Senate. Senator Pressler’s campaign was a subject of many national news stories, including a front page story in The New York Times. It was editorialized that Pressler lost the election, but won the campaign because of his positive, centrist campaign.
Senator Pressler and his wife have one daughter, Laura, and four grandchildren in Newburyport, Massachusetts.