November 29

Dan Lipiniski: The Importance of Witness

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TRANSCRIPT:

HOST: We’ll talk a little bit about Bring Out the Greatness! which is being hosted by the Authentic Leadership Foundation. The goal of the evening is to raise funds to fund character-based leadership programs for youth and educators. It’s going to be on Thursday, December 1st at 7:30 pm and it’s going to be at a private home in the Coppell area, and the evening is going to also feature Dr. Edward Sri, who is a wonderful Catholic author and speaker, and it’s also going to be the first time that they’re going to give away the award of the Authentic Leader…and the first recipient of this is going to be Dan Lipinski, who is a former congressman who grew up in the Bungalow Belt, on the southwest side of Chicago. He was able to earn two engineering degrees from Northwestern and Stanford, and a Ph.D. in political science from Duke. He taught American politics as an assistant professor, before he served 16 years as in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was known as a “common sense problem solver” who brought people together and got things done. And we are blessed to have have him live, on the air with us from Chicago! Dan thank you so much for joining us!

LIPINSKI: It’s very good to be with you.

HOST: So, first off I’ve got to ask, how is the weather up in Chicago today? 

LIPINSKI:  Well the sun’s out which is good for the winter in Chicago; it was 75  ten days ago, and then we got a bunch of snow, and it’s been really cold. So I’m looking forward to coming down to Dallas, and I’m hoping it’s going to be warmer. 

HOST:  You know it’s hit or miss here today, it’s a little bit cold actually but it could also be 88 degrees when you come down, so hopefully we’ll try to prepare you, but Texas is a little unpredictable. 

LIPINSKI: Well I’m looking forward to being there for the Bring Out the Greatness! 2022 event for the Authentic Leadership Foundation. As a former college professor, I know how how much young people are missing today in their lives. You know, things were different when I was a kid, and I was blessed to have two parents who really cared greatly about my formation in the Catholic faith, and the formation of my character, and I went to Catholic schools for for twelve years and it really made a difference. And I know a lot of young people today are not learning those things that we used to learn when when we were growing up. And we see what has happened to the culture around us, so I think it’s really  critical for everyone. Not just for Catholics, but for all young people to really be taught character, in the true virtue. So, I’m very happy to be first of all receiving the Authentic Leader Award for my work in the U.S. Congress for sixteen years,  and work I continue to do today. It’s going to be great to be there, and to raise money for the Authentic Leadership Foundation.

HOST: Absolutely. You highlighted some of the issues we have going on in our culture today. On the website they talk a little bit about the culture stresses: entitlement, not responsibility; feelings, not facts; and ego, not God. As you mentioned, a lot of the families, there’s a breakdown of the family, so that leadership and morals are not just not being instilled in kids the same way that they used to. So groups like the Authentic Leadership Foundation are so very vital indeed. It’s a big question, but I was wondering if you could nail down to one issue going on in the culture right now…what would you think that it is?

LIPINSKI:  That’s a tough one. Obviously, the issue of abortion really continues to be hot topic, after Roe vs. Wade was was overturned. But I think that that goes more broadly  to what do we value and our responsibilities to others. I was a very unique, got more and more unique in Washington as a pro-life Democrat. People would always ask me why I was pro-life and a Democrat. And I said, “Well, I’m a Democrat because I believe there are things that government needs to do to help people, not to do everything for people, but to help people out at times, and to protect  the most vulnerable.” The most vulnerable is the the baby in the womb. 

I was just up at Harvard Law School speaking last week, and I said, “What is what are you hearing? Who are your your classmates who are on the other side, and what what are they thinking?” There’s just a real attitude of not just “me first” but “me only.”  It seems to me we have a responsibility to others and as you said, from the  Authentic Leadership Foundation, the culture stresses entitlement, not responsibility. So I think responsibility is the thing that is really most in need the teaching. Responsibility, and not just what’s in it for me, we all owe each other a great deal and we have so many people that have been responsible who’ve done so much for us, who have given so much to us, and it’s our responsibility to help care for others. And I think that’s something that is really missing. I think a lot of young people feel that, and unfortunately it sometimes  goes to issues and goes to places that I don’t think are necessarily good. I think sometimes they’re misguided, sometimes they’re good, but they don’t get to the true heart of it – it’s our responsibility to other people, and to do what is best to help them, and I think that is part of authentic leadership. It’s authentic leadership; it’s not just leadership because people talk about leadership all the time. But we see what that sometimes unfortunately that leads to, is it’s not good authentic leadership.

HOST:  Absolutely. I was just talking with a friend the other day who is a mom who brings home her kids from school every day, and one of the other moms at the school had on their community board, said, “Listen, I work full-time, I can’t get my kids home from school, can someone please drive them an extra two minutes to my office?” No one responded except for my friend, and she worked out a very good arrangement to help her. One day at the carpool pickup line, one of the teachers said, “Oh, you’re such a saint for picking up all these extra kids and doing this!” 

And she responds, “No, this is not being a saint. I’m doing the bare minimum for my friend.” And it’s something, I think you’re right, that we’re just not very good at helping each other in our communities very much anymore. We are a very self-centered community, we’re not as humble as we should be. In your bio you have this line where you talked about that your goal is to build a bridge while you were in running in Congress. Can you talk a little bit about that?

LIPINSKI:  Well, to bring people together, to address the real issues that we are facing now in in our country. As a more moderate Democrat, but also as a problem solver, as a member of what we called the Problem Solver Caucus, which was Democrats and Republicans who met every week, and talked about, “Okay, what can we work on together? Whether it was with regard to health care, sometimes on the national debt, some immigration issues, and we tried to see, what can we do coming across the aisle, Democrats and Republicans work together on to solve problems?” 

And unfortunately, our politics today seems to come more down more to “Well, let’s just blame the other side, and make the voters dislike the other side more than they dislike us. And I ran for office in order to help people; I mean that’s what I brought to it that I learned that from my father. My father was in politics for about 25-30 years and that’s what I I learned from him: to be a real public servant and to help people out. And if you’re going to do that, you need to build bridges with others in politics, in Congress as I did, in order to solve problems that help make people’s everyday lives a little bit better, and give them the the opportunities in this country. This is still the greatest country in the history of the world.  And I truly believe that we have a lot of a lot of problems today, some that the government can address; others are cultural issues that as a Catholic, I feel really called to help to evangelize the culture, and especially especially young people. As I said at the beginning, I used to be a college professor, I love to teach, and young people have a have a real need these days to be taught better than they’re they’re being taught right now, and to really learn the truth. You know one other thing, I’m an engineer, with two engineering degrees before my Ph.D. in political science. But in politics today, so much is about feelings and not facts, and as a as an engineer and as an academic, we’ve got to talk about facts. That’s the way we’re going to solve problems. Feelings don’t really help…

HOST:  It doesn’t help, it’s a little fickle, they don’t always, and they’re not reliable…

LIPINSKI:  Yeah, I mean there’s nothing wrong with feelings, but when it comes to actual policy making, we need to have the facts.

HOST:  Absolutely. I saw an article that you I think recently wrote, called “Be Catholic First,” and you talked a lot about St. Thomas More, someone I think you look up to a lot. And you mentioned that in today’s political climate, his witness is even more powerful. Can you expand a little bit on that?

LIPINSKI:  Well, I think part of a number of reasons why I say that, one, is that we we all want to see our side win. That’s especially true when you are the one who’s on the ballot. And and I lost the Democratic Primary in 2020 to my opponent, because largely I am pro-life. And it’s become largely unacceptable to the elites in the Democratic Party, but also you know, I stood up for issues of family and religious freedom, and I do not regret that at all, what I did, what I stood for. And like I said, I did not want to lose it, but there’s an over emphasis today on winning, and over emphasis on “…we need to win the next election or else that’s the end.” 

I say, look as a Catholic, I know in the end, what the outcome is, right? As a member of Congress, I did my best for my constituents and for my country. But it was especially important that I stood up for the truth, and what is right, and that witness is so critically important. Saint Thomas More, first, he gave up a very powerful political position. He was the number two in England under the king. He gave that up, so it was his whole life of public service, all the power he had, and then he gave up his life for what he understood was true. 

Today, not too many years from now will be 500 years since Saint Thomas More was was executed for standing up for the truth, and it’s so powerful, more powerful than anything he could have done. As a you know, in the government, I think we all have to recognize that we need to stand up for truth, and sometimes that means that we, in the eyes of the world, will be seen as a loser. But we know what is really truly important, and we should understand that the importance of witness, and that we all have the opportunity to be witnesses. You don’t have to be a member of Congress, you don’t have to be in any particular office. The woman that you were just talking about who was willing to take out a little bit of time to pick up someone else’s kids, and that person that they were were talking to who who called her a saint. That’s a witness, when other people see what we do, and as we know God sees all, so maybe we won’t always be seen as he won’t recognize it but more often than we then we know, people are watching us and we are serving as witnesses. And so we always have to keep that in mind. As I said, you don’t have to be in any kind of position of power for that to be true, but I think that’s where Saint Thomas More, in the understanding of how important witness is, something that we we all need to understand and to and to live out every day.

HOST:   Absolutely! We’re talking to former Congressman Dan Lipinski, who is going to be here in Dallas in just a couple of weeks, on Thursday, December 1. He’s going to be at the Bring Out The Greatness! evening that’s going to be held in Coppell, at the home of a local Catholic couple, and Dr. Edward Sri is going to be one of the speakers that night. And it’s being put on by the Authentic Leadership Foundation, and I want to make sure I thank Darren Smith who is one of the organizers and founders, and who helped bring this interview together. And that night is all about raising the funds they need to fund character-based leadership programs for youth and educators. And that night as well, Dan will be receiving the very first ever Authentic Leader Award. He was chosen for the very first one. Did you know about the Authentic Leadership Foundation before you had gotten the award? What was your connection with the organization?

LIPINSKI:  Well I think this past summer, sometime earlier this year, I was made aware of the Authentic Leadership Foundation. I have spoken at the University of Dallas in the past, I spoke at the Fort Worth Red Mass this year, so even though I live in the Chicago area, I’m getting pretty well connected in Dallas. That’s where I learned about the Authentic Leadership Foundation and the the great work that it’s doing. As a former educator, as someone who’s so concerned about the culture and about our youth, it made me very interested in it. And so I was very honored when they told me that I was going to receive this award.

HOST: Absolutely, and just a reminder to everyone who is listening that this is an event that you can attend if you get some tickets for it you can go to the website authenticleadershipfoundation.org. The tickets are $100 there’s also some sponsorship opportunities. It’s a pretty powerful evening, we have Dr. Edward Sri, I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten to meet him before Dan but he’s also a fantastic leader in the Church. He did my RCIA program that I did to come into the full communion of the Catholic faith, so very thankful to him.

LIPINSKI:  I don’t think I’ve ever met him; I’ve heard him speak but we’ve never met before, so I’m looking forward to that opportunity. 

HOST:  Absolutely, so again visit the website if you like to get in on this fantastic evening and learn more about the work that the Authentic Leadership Foundation does. Dan we just have a couple of minutes remaining with you, but I think there’s a lot of people a lot of Catholics who can get easily drawn into, I guess you could say, the drama of the current political climate. It can be very disheartening and frustrating. Is there any advice you give to Catholics, how to keep a level head I guess in this time?

LIPINSKI:  Well, we have to remember, as it as I said earlier, that we know the outcome in the very end. I know a lot of people get very frustrated with what they see. I get very frustrated also, but I’m able to look…I always go back to Saint  Mother Teresa, who said we are not called to be successful, we’re called to be faithful. And so when things don’t go well for us, whether personally, or in politics, we see what’s going wrong in our culture today, God calls us to be faithful and to be Witnesses. You know, he is in charge of the rest of it, so we just have to continue to pray, and to work and not become discouraged. So that’s I know, it gets very hard especially these days, but we just have to remember that we’re called to be faithful, and God knows what we are doing and, yeah we don’t know what’s what’s going to happen in our culture or in this country, but we know what’s going to happen in the sense that we know what the end story is. 

HOST:  Absolutely. We know where this is headed! Dan, thank you so much, I appreciate you taking some time to come on our show today, we’re looking forward to hosting you here in the Dallas area to have you come and visit again. If you want to join that evening at the Authentic Leadership Foundation event Bring Out The Greatness! you can go to authenticleadershipfoundation.org to get your tickets, all posted on our local Facebook page as well. Dan, is there anything that you want to let listeners know about how if they want to continue following you when you might be going to speak at different events, a website that I can give out for the listeners?

LIPINSKI:  Danlipinski.com is my website, so  please go there you can see what I’m doing. I need to update the website, I do that all myself so I’m a couple weeks behind right now.

HOST: Good to hear, thank you so much Dan again for taking some time out of your day to talk to us, and for coming and receiving this award and for all that you have done for our country and continue to do, I do appreciate it a lot. Again, the website is authenticleadershipfoundation.org if you want to come out and see Dr Edward Sri and Dan Lipinski receive the Authentic Leader Award at the Bring Out The Greatness! event in Coppell. This has been the Good News Show.

About the author 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is Co-Founder of the Authentic Leadership Institute. He is a native Texan and a graduate of Dallas Jesuit and Texas A&M University. Over the past 25 years, Darren has visited 35 countries and led 100 strategy programs. He and his wife have five children.


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