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The McGovern Report

The McGovern Report

By Joel Allen
This podcast is the voice of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University. The McGovern Center is the living legacy of Sen. George and Eleanor McGovern, two of Dakota Wesleyan’s most prominent alumni. The McGovern Center builds on George and Eleanor’s lifelong commitment to humanitarian outreach and civic engagement working in the areas of leadership development, social justice, community-based research and learning and public service.
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MR 2:6 Interview / Update with Don Messer of the Center for Health and Hope

The McGovern Report

Sen. George McGovern's 100th birthday: A commemorative conversation with Tom Knock and Mark Lempke
Senator George McGovern would have turned 100 on July 19, 2022. It has been almost exactly 50 years since he received the nomination of the Democratic Party to run for president. It has almost been 10 years since his passing in October of 2012. This podcast is a commemorative conversation between three people who know and deeply appreciate the contributions made by the Senator.  Professor Thomas Knock is a chair of the history department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas. He is also the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor History and author of "The Rise of the Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern." Mark Lempke is that author of "My Brother's Keeper: George McGovern and Progressive Christianity" and has completed a Ph.D. in history at State University of New York at Buffalo and taught history in Singapore at the Singapore Institute of Management. He and his wife Heather now live in Rochester New York. If you are interested in attending or simply want to learn more about our McGovern Centennial Celebration event on Sept. 22, you can go to McGovern Centennial Celebration on Sept. 22. If you wish to read the commemorative piece I recently wrote about Sen. McGovern, you can click at this link: Remembering George. If you wish to contact me with question or comment, email me at
July 20, 2022
MR 2:6 Interview / Update with Don Messer of the Center for Health and Hope
Don is a great friend and partner in crime or ministry (whichever makes greater sense to you :). Don is a graduate of DWU, a former president of DWU (our youngest ever), former president of Iliff Theological Seminary and now the executive director of the Center for Health and Hope. Here is his latest newsletter which we will discuss.
June 28, 2021
MR 2:5 Sarah Nearman Herbert on her children's book "George McGovern: South Dakota's Legendary Legislator"
Sarah is a retired educator in Sioux Falls, SD who, in her retirement, has now written a lovely book about George McGovern. She holds undergraduate and master's degrees from University of South Dakota in Vermillion SD. She was motivated to write this book about McGovern after he died in 2012. She realized that nothing for children had yet be written even with the great impact he had on South Dakota and the US. Sarah felt that elementary children should know more about McGovern's leadership in the House and Senate and Democratic candidacy for president in 1972. His work as the United Nations Ambassador to the World Food Program and school lunch program continues to influence millions of people worldwide.
May 13, 2021
MR 2:4 The Legacy and Future of Progressive Christianity: A Conversation with David Gerber and Mark Lempke
Since 1980, progressive Christianity, once the powerful force for civil rights and against the Vietnam war, has faded from the scenes. Voices like George McGovern and Walter Mondale who proclaimed a social gospel, are fading. In their place is a more conservative muscular version of evangelical Christianity that downplays the need for social justice and works instead to preserve traditional values. Why the shift? Is there a role for progressive Christianity in the future? How can progressive Christian find its voice again? Included in this conversation are David A. Gerber and Mark Lempke. David A. Gerber is University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus. David A. Gerber taught American History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) from 1971 to his retirement in 2012. He was founding Director of the Center for Disability Studies at UB, and served in that capacity from 2009 through 2012. Mark is the author of My Brother’s Keeper: George McGovern and Progressive Christianity. Mark is a historian of post-war religion and politics. He specializes in progressive Christianity and the Christian left that developed in the 1960’s and 70’s. He completed his Ph.D. at the SUNY at Buffalo and previously taught in Singapore at the UB Singapore campus. He lives now in Buffalo NY.
March 24, 2021
MR 2:3 The Stark Lectureship with Dr. Shawn Moore (and Joel Reinesch) on "Race and Policing Reform"
Its a privilege to welcome Dr. Shawn Moore to DWU on March 18th as our 2021 Stark Lecturer. Because of COVID, we can only welcome a limited number of guests from off-campus. If you want to come in person, email me (Joel Allen) at and I'll send you a sign-up link. If you prefer, you can watch online at  Shawn is the pastor of Living Spirit United Methodist Church in Minneapolis and a former US Navy Security Specialist. He's worked as a policeman in Brooklyn Center MN and has 10 years combined experience in law enforcement and law enforcement training. Shawn continues to work as a police trainer in racial bias. Shawn teaches reconciliation studies at Bethel University and diversity studies at Metropolitan State University. Shawn recently completed a doctorate at United Theological Seminary with a focus on race relations and reconciliation in South Africa. He has a master's degree in cultural anthropology and missiology from Bethel University and is a certified life coach. Joel Reinesch is an assistant professor of criminal justice at DWU. From his bio page on the DWU website, I'll include the following. Strengths: Context | Harmony | Consistency | Empathy | Responsibility Education History: Dakota Wesleyan University (B.A.), American Military University (M.A. in Criminal Justice) Professional History: Joel is a Marine Corps (Infantry) veteran of two combat deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Not long after being Honorably Discharged in 2006, he started with the Mitchell Police Department. There, he held the ranks of Patrol Officer, Detective/Investigator and also Patrol Sergeant. Joel completed his undergrad officially in 2013 and his Master's in 2018. He worked for the Mitchell PD for more than 11 years before being hired by Dakota Wesleyan, his alma mater. Areas of Expertise: Joel has obtained specialized training in death/homicide investigations, advanced crime scene processing, advanced interview and interrogation, arson origin and cause, mental health and also crisis/hostage negotiations. Hobbies: golfing with my family and attending as many DWU and Mitchell HS activities as possible Family: My wife, Liza; son, Coy; daughter, Emma; beagle, Bo; black lab, Chaos.
February 15, 2021
MR 2:2 An Interview with Stephanie Bolman-Altamirano - on the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council
Welcome to Stephanie Bolman-Altamirano of Chamberlain SD! I especially appreciate Stephanie's patience as we had to record this more than once due to some technical difficulties and had to reschedule several times before that. Stephanie is a 1998 graduate of DWU in biology. She was elected to the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council on Oct 7, 2020 and has been an enthusiastic leader accomplishing much in a short period of time. I'm interested in persons who have left DWU to become leaders in their communities and provide models for integrity and authenticity. Thanks for being on the podcast, Stephanie!
January 06, 2021
MR 2:1 A Conversation with Don Hedrick (Rapid City Chief of Police) and President Amy Novak
Don Hedrick has steadily climbed the ranks in the Rapid City police department, starting as a patrol officer in 2002 and ultimately being appointed as chief of police on August 17 of this year. He was named a Bloomberg Fellow in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where he is working on his Ph.D. in public health. In addition, he serves on the boards of a number of organizations in the Rapid City community.
December 15, 2020
MR 1:16 The Troublesome Transition - A Conversation with Dr. Sean Flynn
A conversation with Professor Sean Flynn, chair of the history department at Dakota Wesleyan University. We discussed the troublesome transition from the Trump to the Biden presidency. Just how destructive can these days become to our national well-being? Where are we headed and are there any historical precedents? I found this conversation comforting and grounding. The center will hold. I've paste below some information from Dr. Flynn's bio page at DWU. Year Started: 1999 Education History: South Dakota State University (BA degree), Texas Tech University (MA and Ph.D. degrees) Professional History: He has been awarded the United Methodist Church General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Teaching Excellence Award and the Clarke Award for Teaching Excellence Award. He has written four books, including "Without Reservation: Benjamin Reifel and American Indian Acculturation" (Pierre: South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2018), a biography of South Dakota's only American Indian congressperson; and "Chief, Marine Corps Warrior" (2003), a military biography of Flynn's father, a decorated aviator and Korean War POW and one of the few pilots of American Indian descent to fly combat missions in World War II and Korea.
November 10, 2020
1:15 An Interview with Anne Kelly about Community-Based Learning and Suicide Autopsy
Anne Kelly is Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Psychology at Dakota Wesleyan University. She is also the Dean of the College of Leadership and Public Service. Anne and I had a discussion about her work in Community-Based Learning. She describes the work she's done with students matched to senior adults at the James Valley Community Center. She's also done fascinating work with the Abbott House here in Mitchell.
October 05, 2020
MR 1:14 A Conversation between President Amy Novak and Leon Washington
Dakota Wesleyan has initiated a speaker's series between Amy Novak and notable DWU graduates. First on this list is this conversation with Leon Washington. Leon is the Dean of Enrollment Management at Villanova University. He's a gentle and strong leader whose life of wisdom and kindness make him a stellar example for others to follow. You'll enjoy this conversation.
September 21, 2020
MR 1:13 An Interview with Lynn Hart about MLK Day in South Dakota.
Lynn Hart knew George and Eleanor McGovern when he was quite young and tells his story here. Lynn was also involved with the legislation in South Dakota that put MLK day and Native American Day on the South Dakota holiday calendar. Here is a link to another interview with Lynn.
September 07, 2020
MR 1:12 A Conversation with Arthur Bellinzoni - Memories of George and Eleanor McGovern
Arthur and I met only several weeks ago. I've enjoyed our emails and conversations. He's an impressive scholar whose written a collection of books and articles - mostly on Christian Origins and Early Christian Thought. Arthur knew George and Eleanor for many years and shares his appreciation for their humility, hospitality and humanity. If you want to learn more about his work, go to . 
August 17, 2020
MR 1:11 Memories of George and Eleanor McGovern: A Conversation with John Solberg
John Solberg shares his memories of George and Eleanor McGovern.
August 03, 2020
MR 1:10 Ruth Page Jones and the South Dakota Women's Suffrage Movement
In 1918, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill granting women the right to vote. This extraordinary achievement did not occur after a few mild asks. Women had been campaigning vigorously for 100 years for this right and their movement simply would not take rejection without coming back again. Time after time the South Dakota legislature denied women this right. Ruth Page Jones, of the South Dakota Humanities Council Speaker's Bureau tells us this great story. Ruth especially tells of the important role played by school suffrage, something most of us know nothing about. We also discussed the role the Bible played on both sides of this debate.
July 27, 2020
MR 1:9 A Conversation with Cici Schneider on Child Nutrition in the developing world and the Global Children Nutrition Foundation
Cici Schneider graduated from DWU in 2018 with degrees in Psychology and Non-Profit Administration. She now works at the Global Child Nutrition Foundation in Seattle Washington which began while still a student at DWU. CiCi exemplifies the continuing impact of George and Eleanor McGovern who sought to alleviate food insecurity in the developing world and the role played by school lunch programs.
July 20, 2020
MR 1:8 Climate Change and the Bible - A Conversation with David Hollis
I'm re-publishing a conversation I had a few months ago with David Hollis about the Bible and Climate Change. Many folks who take the Bible seriously doubt the reality of climate change and see it as a pseudo-science driven by a confirmation bias aimed at the expansion of big government. David and I are both Christian leaders of the United Methodist variety and very concerned about the future health and viability of our climate. So we discuss climate change from biblical and theological perspectives. I hope you enjoy!
July 13, 2020
MR 1:7 Climate Change: The Challenge and the Solution - a Conversation with Paula Mazzer and Kayla Miller
During this pandemic and racial unrest, we've almost forgotten about what is perhaps an even more threatening challenge - that of climate change. In this episode, I had a conversation with Drs. Paula Mazzer and Kayla Miller, about their experiences as scientists and their understanding of the science of climate change. In the Outro, I discussed the fact that in November of 2022, we'll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1972 McGovern political campaign. I mentioned that if you have personal memories of involvement in that campaign, or personal memories of George and Eleanor McGovern, please use the following link and on the page that comes up, click on the "Messages" option.
June 29, 2020
MR 1:6 McGovern and the Social Gospel: A Conversation with Mark Lempke
Mark Lempke, Author of "My Brother's Keeper: George McGovern and Progressive Christianity" joins me today to discuss the influence of the social gospel on George McGovern and how this message might resonate today. Mark is a historian of post-war religion and politics. He specializes in progressive Christianity and the Christian left that developed in the 1960's and 70's. He completed his Ph.D. from the State University of New York in Buffalo and taught on the SUNY campus in Singapore before he moved back to Rochester NY. Mark and I discussed the importance of Walter Rauschenbusch on McGovern's thought and politics.
June 22, 2020
MR 1.5 A Conversation with Joel Reinesch about Criminal Justice and Police Reform
We all watched the video in absolute horror. How could this police officer, charged to guard and protect, so casually murder an unarmed and handcuffed person? How could others have stood by and watched without ever intervening? We are in a time when, as a nation, we're having a serious and much overdue conversation about how we can police ourselves better. It isn't just about rogue cops, its about rogue cultures that turn a blind eye causing community outrage. Of course, the looting and rioting is only worthy of opprobrium. And most police officers and departments want only to uphold the law and protect all persons regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. So let's discuss policing, police reform, police unions and how we can make this a better nation for all Americans. I interviewed Joel Reinesch, chair of our Criminal Justice Department at DWU and a former police officer and marine. We looked at some interesting approaches taken in Camden New Jersey and Eugene Oregon. I hope you find this a helpful and engaging conversation. Many thanks to Joel for taking this touchy topic on!
June 16, 2020
MR 1:4 The COVID-19 Pandemic and Food Security in the Developing World: A Conversation with Don Messer and Andrew DeVaney
We are all tired of talking about the pandemic! We've heard stories from every angle imaginable. Yet this episode covers an aspect that is going unreported in the American press, even though it is impacting millions of people around the world. The pandemic, tragic as it is for those in the west, is more tragic by far in the developing world. Don Messer, founder and CEO of the Center for Health and Hope ( is one of our guests today. Don was president of DWU from 1971-1981 and has been deeply engaged in meeting the needs of those with HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Andrew Devaney is the founder and CEO of AsOne Ministries (, a development ministry working in several villages in Uganda. I do encourage you to make donations to these two ministries if you want to help meeting desperate needs in this part of the world.
June 10, 2020
MR 1.3 Don Messer: Memories of George and Eleanor McGovern and Dr. Martin Luther King
I've wanted to interview Don for some time. He's a perfect guest for this podcast and what an interesting life! He was president of Dakota Wesleyan University (1971-1981) and Iliff School of Theology (1981-2000). Don went on to found and direct the Center for Health and Hope which advocates and promotes health (particularly HIV and AIDS) and clean water. He and his wife Bonnie were good friends with George and Eleanor McGovern for many years. Don also marched with Dr. King on several occasions. Don has been passionately engaged in issues of world hunger, and in fact, he and George McGovern wrote a book on world hunger called Ending World Hunger Now: A Challenge to Persons of Faith. Let me speak personally for a moment. I get a little emotional toward the end. This took me completely by surprise. I hate to cry in public but . . . it happens. I decided not to cut it out. I'm not a person who can cry on demand. I get uncomfortable when others cry in public. But its a part of life and maybe some tears are warranted when there is such sorrow.
June 05, 2020
MR 1:2 The Curious Case of South Dakota House Bill 1212
This podcast examines a recent experience I had advocating for South Dakota HB 1212 which would have added clergy to the list of mandatory reporters of suspected cases of child neglect and abuse. 45 states already mandate that clergy report suspected cases. Reporting suspected abuse does not mean that anyone gets in trouble. It just means that a qualified professional checks in on the child's welfare. Teachers, counselors, healthcare providers, social welfare workers and many other professions are already mandatory reporters. The Board of Ordained Ministries of the Dakota's Conference of the United Methodist Church says, "House Bill 1212 not only aids in offering protections for our most vulnerable members of society but also frees our clergy to be better disciple-makers who model the teachings of Jesus and speak up on behalf of children."  You would think it would be a no-brainer, right?  Enter Norman Woods of the Family Heritage Alliance - a conservative organization that "seeks to defend the values that you cherish" - namely the protection of family, faith and freedom. Norm testified against the bill claiming it was an impingement on first amendment protection of the free exercise of religion. Legislators there clearly know Norman and respect his opinion. The bill passed out of the Judiciary committee on a 9/3 vote and was voted down in the House of Representatives on a 30/35 vote. I believe if the FHA hadn't opposed it, it would have passed.  I argue in this podcast that the biblical support provided on the FHA website for their work in protecting religious liberties completely misses the point of the two passages on which it is based (1 Peter 2:11-14 and Romans 13:1-3). It is a great example of reading what you want to see into the Bible and ignoring what it actually says. Secondly, the FHA didn't provide any explanation on what exactly makes HB 1212 a 1st amendment curtailment. Norman simply said it was. But there is a very clear argument otherwise (provided in the podcast). Furthermore, as far as we can tell, there has not been a single 1st amendment challenge brought against any of the 45 states where clergy are mandatory reporters. Not a single one. If we were truly dealing with a curtailment of the free exercise of religion, someone would have noticed and brought a challenge. But this is not the case.  There is absolutely no good reason to say that HB 1212 threatened 1st amendment religious freedoms. I think it is clear that children are now less safe, less protected, their welfare less prioritized because of this political influence. It is hard to prioritize the welfare of children. It so often gets ignored because people don't want to disturb their church with information about sexual abuse that may occur. So it gets swept under the carpet with the claim, "The state has no business telling the church what to do." As I say in the podcast, the state cannot tell a preacher how to interpret the Bible, but it sure can tell him how fast he can drive on his way to Bible study.  In the judiciary hearing, one wise representative asked an opponent of HB 1212, "Can you explain to me exactly how the practice of your faith would change if HB 1212 were passed?" That is the question and the failure to answer proved the point! Churches should place greater important on the protection of children than upon the protection of 1st amendment privilege. The FHA folks are good well-intentioned godly people. They are also unable to see how their fierce attention of protection of religious liberty is blinding them to a deeper calling. So South Dakota continues on its path of prioritizing the needs of adults over those of children in voting down of HB 1212. And it is a curious situation when the misapplication of the 1st amendment supersedes Jesus clear command that we "suffer the little children to come"
June 03, 2020
BC 1:1 DWU Cares Event
In this episode, I've interviewed Ryan Chase and Anna Schwader about their leadership role in planning/transforming our Great Wesleyan Give Back day. So every year we do a major all-campus service day which is organized by the McGovern Center. This year, with the pandemic, we all expected it to dissipate along with everything else. But it didn't. Ryan, Anna, the Alumni Office, and others organized a virtual event that would combine our service day and our Day of Giving day into a two day event called DWU Cares. It was a tremendous success and everyone had a great time doing service in communities all over the US and even around the world.
May 15, 2020