If there is any subject I?ve written the most while on the War College, it may be memorials to people who have died. Life, death, public service, legacy and pursuit of the public good all matter to me and memorials seem to be an appropriate pause in the heated moments of the day and an opportunity to reflect.
To do one about Bill Janklow was difficult because our relationship was so multi-faceted and complex, personal, political as allies and opponents. Additionally, because so much of the time we knew each other was lived with one or both of us being mad at the other.
But as I reflect on it, this could be said about so many of us who knew and had conflicting experiences with our longest serving Governor and shortest serving Congressman. That dichotomy might even sum up how most South Dakotans remember Bill Janklow.
We can feel strongly about one major public accomplishment. For me, I think his saving of the main line is his single greatest and most long-lasting impact on our state. Or, be furious to this day about another, as some in Bon Homme County still lament the closing of the college in Springfield.
We can praise his steely resolve to accomplish many things or we can condemn when he did things we thought we would never forgive.
Or how we can treasure personal experiences where he brought us into his intimacy or be resentful about when he used his many leadership skills for what we thought to be for our state’s detriment.
As a Pierre-ite, I?ve known Bill Janklow over 35 years, meeting him when I was about 15 years old. And, I?m not exaggerating when I say for at least half that time I was mad at him. The first time was during Easter my Sophomore year in high school when as Attorney General he led the highway patrol on a bust of a party (I wasn?t there) on Corps land near the Oahe Dam. I thought what is the Attorney General doing worrying about kids drinking? Now as a father, I understand since it was possible his own kids might be at such a party in the future.
And each time I got mad at him, Bill Janklow ultimately melted the hardness in my heart toward him. While to some degree the melting was because of my affection for his family, specifically Mary Dean, Russ and Pam (I just know Shonna as a little sister with whom I had scant real interaction). But, at the same time, my madness was more intense because I knew him and expected/hoped for something different.
Was it because of his charisma? I don?t think so while I?m sure it had some effect. As one who has been around politicians since high school, I?ve come a bit skeptical of charisma and looking for something deeper.
As I have reflected on what it was about Bill Janklow that caused me to always forgive him and in the end love him, I realize the positive he did always transcended the negative. More importantly, holding a grudge only served to make me smaller when Bill Janklow expected me to be bigger.
As I watched on TV the service today in the Capitol, I think this is how South Dakotans will remember Bill Janklow. He had big ideas, accomplished big things that we will always remember. The other matters will be placed over time in proper context- they just don?t add up to much (Excepting the Scott tragedy which he said is his biggest regret).
And, most importantly, as one of his friends said, he was more “Teddy Bear” than “Grizzly Bear.”
Final comment: Most of us have to someday deal with the loss of our parents and maybe spouse. Families that have public figure members mourn and grieve in public. The Janklow?s have accepted this with grace. I wouldn?t have blamed them a bit if they had said: ?We gave you our Dad for most of our lives but not now. Thank you very much.?
I?m grateful they gave all of South Dakota this opportunity to grieve the loss of our Governor. Mary Dean, Russ, Pam and Shonna, my prayers are with you. May your Dad Rest in Peace and may you continue to be touched warmly by his love that he will continue to shower on you every moment until you meet again.
P.S. The following is from Senator Jim Abdnor:
?The loss of Bill Janklow is the passing of tireless thinker and worker for the people of South Dakota and I am saddened by the news. I?m proud of the many accomplishments we had together on behalf of South Dakota. The one time we opposed each other in an election does not define our relationship nor diminish my appreciation of Bill Janklow. He was a man of great courage as he showed during these last few months. My deepest condolences to Mary Dean, Russ, Pam, and Shonna for whom I have the greatest affection. ?