STARKVILLE, Miss.--U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper stayed true to the guiding purpose behind Mississippi State University's Morris W.H. "Bill" Collins Speaker Series -- starting a frank and open conversation about his life.
His presentation in the John Grisham Room at Mitchell Memorial Library on Thursday gave Harper the chance to talk about his life experiences as a person, politician and historian.
Harper, among other roles he plays in the House of Representatives, chairs the Joint Committee on Printing and vice-chairs the Joint Committee on the Library. He takes history quite seriously, he said, and much of his talk focused on the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
He offered his audience several fun-facts about the Capitol, one concerning Will Rogers, famous cowboy and actor of the 1920s and 1930s.
"There's Will Rogers' statue, that if you're walking toward Statuary Hall, he's facing the doors, the double doors that the President of the United States would walk though into the floor of the house to give the State of the Union address … (Rogers) said he wanted his statue to be right there looking that way toward the double doors because those doors needed the most watching," Harper explained.
Harper reminisced about working for Charles W. Pickering when he was seeking the Republican nomination for Mississippi's U.S. Senate seat in 1978, and though Pickering lost the race to Thad Cochran, Pickering gave Harper a note thanking him for his efforts and offering help if he ever needed it.
That day came in 2008, when Harper was first elected as Mississippi's 3rd Congressional District Representative, after the former representative, Pickering's son, Charles Willis "Chip" Pickering Jr., chose not to run for office. Harper said he was glad Pickering had offered assistance.
"The people that you come to know, you will see them again, and I do believe that God puts people in your lives that will have an impact on you in the future … Maintain those contacts," Harper advised.
Individuals make differences in people's lives every day, he said.
"I encourage you to realize that one person can do something, and so I will say, always dream big and don't ever settle for mediocrity," Harper told the room full of students and staff
Harper said he was incredibly proud of his children, Livingston and Maggie, who are both current students, and of the reputation of MSU Libraries, headed by Frances Coleman.
"You look at the history, and you think about what goes on, and this library has done an incredible job," he said. "And Dean Coleman, I just want to say, you're amazing in the work you do here."
He pointed to the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library collection as one example of unique learning materials available at the university, and overall, he encouraged his audience to know its history and be proud of MSU and the state.
"We have a great state and we're a great university that's making a difference around this world," Harper said. "And you know, you may not realize it if you're not in that area, but the research and development that's done here at this university is world class, and so don't ever let anybody put Mississippi down because we do great things.
"This is the best state in the union to raise a family."
After his presentation, Harper fielded questions from the audience on topics ranging from climate change to voter ID laws.
His visit was sponsored by MSU Libraries' Congressional & Political Research Center, the John C. Stennis Institute of Government, the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service and the Stennis Montgomery Association.