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Branstad, Drake University form partnership (copy)
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Branstad, Drake University form partnership (copy)

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Terry Branstad, the former Iowa governor and U.S. ambassador to China, speaks during a news conference Wednesday at Drake University in Des Moines. The school announced it has made Branstad an ambassador in residence.

DES MOINES — Terry Branstad is bringing his half-century of experience in public service to Drake University.

Branstad, the former Iowa governor who held the post longer than any state chief executive in the nation’s history and more recently was the former U.S. ambassador to China, will serve as an ambassador in residence at Drake University.

It is a non-paid position under which Branstad will occasionally instruct and generally make himself available to Drake University students.

Along with his new position, Branstad will also bring some materials like papers and memorabilia from his time as governor to be displayed at Drake University.

The announcement was made Wednesday during a news conference on in the law library at Opperman Hall on the Drake University campus. Branstad attended Drake’s law school in the early 1970s, just as he was also beginning his historical political career.

“I have a strong commitment to public service. And even though I’ve completed my time as governor and as ambassador, I want to give back,” Branstad said during the news conference. “I want to help students and I want to help the Drake community. I want to encourage people to get involved to make a difference.”

Branstad was first elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1972, while he was still attending Drake law school. He became lieutenant governor in 1978, and then was elected governor in 1982. He served four terms as governor before stepping down to serve in the private sector. He returned and was elected governor again in 2010 and 2014. In 2017, he was named U.S. ambassador to China by then-President Donald Trump. Branstad served in that role for nearly all of Trump’s one term in office.

“Can you imagine sitting in a class with the longest-serving governor in the history of these United States, as well as an ambassador to China, and just asking those questions that will come to mind based upon that experience? What an invaluable experience our students are going to have,” Drake University president Marty Martin said.

Branstad said he looks forward to engaging with Drake students about any kind of topics relevant to his 50 years of public service: his time as a state lawmaker, as governor, and as U.S. ambassador to China, a country that is vital to the U.S. economically but often at odds with the U.S. on human rights and other issues.

Branstad said he hopes to create a conference or symposium, hosted by Drake University, on the complicated relationship between the U.S. and China.

“I want to do what I can to continue that relationship. And I know it’s a challenging one,” Branstad said. “We’re two very different systems. And we’ve been disappointed in the direction that (Chinese president) Xi Jinping has led China. We thought he would be more of a reformer like his father … but instead he’s gone a more hardline direction, and more authoritarian, and more controlled by the Communist Party.”

Branstad added later, “We have some big differences on policy. And those have gotten wider over the years, and especially since COVID.”

 “I want to help students and I want to help the Drake community. I want to encourage people to get involved to make a difference.”

Terry Branstad


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