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The 'Dingell Commitment,' According To America's Longest Serving Congressman's Former Chief Of Staff

Feb 8, 2019

John Dingell
Credit Wikiquote / wikiquote.org

With nearly 60 years in Congress, John Dingell's impact on people and places across Michigan and across the country was significant and far reaching.

89.1 WEMU's Lisa Barry spoke with Dingell's final chief of staff Leigh Greden, who is currently chief of staff in the president's office at Eastern Michigan University.


Leigh Greden, Chief of Staff to EMU's President
Credit Eastern Michigan University / emich.edu

Current EMU Chief of Staff Leigh Greden served as Michigan Congressman John Dingell’s Chief of Staff during Dingell’s final year in office in 2014.  Greden shares how he has been friends with the Dingells for many years and was asked by John in 2013 to serve as his Chief of Staff to help him transition to retirement.

Greden agreed that John Dingell liked being in charge but held great respect for his colleagues and staffers.  Greden refers to Dingell’s practices as "the gold standard for constituent service" and how to represent them through helping them when they have challenges with the government and listening to and respecting them.  Dingell would often ask his friends and staff, “Don’t tell what you think I want to hear.  Tell me what you think I need to hear,” whenever he sought their advice on political matters.

Greden said that John Dingell was never afraid to say that he made a mistake.  Dingell shared that one of the few votes that he deeply regretted was for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 during his ninth year of congressional service.  Greden recalls how Dingell said that, “they [the committee who wrote the resolution] twisted my arm and they lied to me.  I regret casting my vote for that resolution.”

John Dingell firmly believed and would often say that the Greek definition of the word "congress" means coming together and reaching across the political aisle to reach a shared solution.  He added that the word “compromise is not a bad word."  According to Greden, Dingell viewed his greatest achievements as signing the Clean Water Act, sponsoring the Affordable Care Act, and his continual support for the auto industry.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu