Getting Active in Politics

Though he says he has been involved in politics for a short time—just two and a half years—Ben Krouse-Gagne has done more than some of us will do in our lifetimes. He worked on Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s Senate campaign, did a summer internship with the Anti-War Committee, served as a delegate to the 2008 Democratic state convention in Rochester, Minn., and spends weekends door-knocking for state congressional candidates.

Krouse-Gagne, a second-year political science major who grew up in the Minneapolis’ progressive Seward neighborhood, said he was really always involved in politics because his family, neighbors, and church community were politically active. Then in high school, he traveled to the School of the Americas in Georgia, a military combat training school and the site of frequent anti-war protests. “It really hit me when they read the names of those killed in the war,” he said, “and one of the names was ‘one-month old baby.’”

That experience fueled Krouse-Gagne’s desire to become active and led him eventually to a summer job at TakeAction Minnesota, where he worked to educate voters about political issues. “People don’t understand how state politics affects them,” he said. “A lot of people don’t even know who their state representatives are.”

His RNC field placement was with the Bloomberg News Service. On the first day of the convention, he covered the protests outside Xcel Center. “I knew a lot of the people and organizations protesting,” he said, which gave him an opportunity to get close to the action. Protestors told him their goal was to slow down the convention. “Inside, they didn’t even know what was happening out there,” he said. “It didn’t slow down the convention at all.”

Another assignment was to cover a press conference with former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. After the conference, Krouse-Gagne walked with Romney to his next appointment and was able to have a one-on-one conversation. He asked what Romney thought about McCain’s choice for a running mate.

“He said he wouldn’t have picked her, but he thought she would bring energy to the campaign.” Krouse-Gagne, who aspires to be a campaign manager, also asked Romney what it was like running for president. “He said it was non-stop…nothing like running for governor.”

Through conversations with delegates, Krouse-Gagne learned that he had more in common with Republicans than he thought. “Republicans are just the same as us,” he said. “They want what we want, just in a different way.”

Krouse-Gagne also became friends with Eric Franzen, another intern who is currently the president of the Augsburg College Republicans. The two are working with the Sabo Center for Citizenship and Learning, with the help of Augsburg Sabo Professor Garry Hesser, to bring speakers to campus to further the “Get Political” civic engagement events. Their goal is to ensure that the Augsburg community is exposed to multiple perspectives on political issues.

Being at the RNC made Krouse-Gagne want to be a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention and to become even more involved in politics. A lot can happen in four years.

Getting Active in Politics (Ben Krouse-Gagne ’11)

Changing Courses (Mai Lee ’11)

Because I Can (Eric Franzen MAE ’10)

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