The start of each month brings a new opportunity for our Twitter followers to engage closely with distinguished professors, athletes, thought leaders, and scholars in diverse fields. With Spring Commencement falling just a day after our #UMichChat, who better to spotlight and converse with than one of UMich’s very own honorary degree recipients? Having served in Congress for over 59 years–since the Eisenhower administration–our guest of the hour was the perfect candidate to offer advice for our graduating Wolverines. @JohnDingell joined us to discuss early days, his pursuit of a lifelong career in politics, and the lessons learned and wisdom acquired over his many years in office and, now, in a well-earned retirement.
Often referred to as the “King of Twitter,” Dingell is popular among students for his witty posts and #GoBlue spirit. Although his past accomplishments are no secret, it is rare for our students and the larger Michigan community to have the chance to interact with and ask him questions, one on one. Much like #UMichChat(s) of the past, our team provided ample scripted questions to keep conversation flowing, but also fielded inquiries from those who chimed in during the session. With questions ranging from the lighthearted to deeply personal, we hoped that we’d be able to provide a more intimate glimpse into Dingell’s perspectives given our limited timeframe:
We learned his reasoning for joining politics, his inspirations–which include fellow Michigander Gerald Ford–and the legislative accomplishments he’s most proud of: heathcare reform and civil rights. He provided advice to students looking to get involved in the political field, writing: “Prepare yourself. Education & work are important. Stay involved in your community. You’re at the best damn school in America.” After he explained his involvement in the local efforts to repair Ann Arbor bridges, we asked Dingell where he sees the most improvement for the state of Michigan in the future. He couldn’t answer without a shoutout to the football team: “Economy. Jobs. Roads. Quality of the State Legislature. Most importantly: a winning @umichfootball team. Go @CoachJim4UM!”
In the few days leading up to and following the chat, our hashtag accumulated 276 posts, coming from 136 different users. This led to a social reach of over 300,000 and 4.6 million impressions. We are beyond thankful to have had the time to sit down and chat with John Dingell, learning more about his political successes, inspirations, and advice for the future. Even though he’s officially retired, his work isn’t necessarily done. On Wednesday, Dingell visited campus in order to donate an archive of his time in office to the Bentley Historical Library–all 550 boxes worth! According to The University Record, this collection includes correspondence, bills that Dingell introduced, photos, and more. It is very exciting to have had the opportunity to feature Dingell in our latest #UMichChat, watch him receive his honorary degree at Spring Commencement, and, finally to have everything come full circle with his donation of the collected materials from 59 years in office to UMich.
Have an idea for our next topic and speakers? Tweet us, using #UMichChat and be sure to join in next time!
This post was written by Katie Szymanski, Communication and Digital Studies senior; #UMSocial editorial intern. #StaySocial with her: @KatieSkii