Retired major general and Utah Democratic governor candidate Peter Cooke spoke to students and answered questions at Weber State
University on Tuesday evening in Room 119 of the Social Sciences Building. Cooke spoke as part of professor Sean Pressey’s American Social Welfare Policy class, though all WSU students were invited to attend.
Pressey explained the purpose of the policy class. “We analyze local, state and national policies, and we look at them from a pragmatic perspective,” he said. “Do they work, have they worked in the past, will they work in the future, do they have value — and we base those policy decisions in our personal values.”
According to Pressey, having politicians and candidates such as Cooke come in offers the opportunity for students to ask questions on policy. Pressey said it also allows students “to converse within an educated level and get politicians to admit their strengths, show their weaknesses, and what value is it that’s driving you that’s going to get you to where you want us to be?”
Examples of topics and policies that came up during the discussion included education, children living in poverty, autism in Utah, immigration, discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, abortion and equal pay for women.
Cooke and the room engaged in a discussion after he spoke, focusing on education, Utah’s economy, environmental issues and transparency in government. The floor was opened for student questions under Pressey’s direction, which is when some of the more controversial issues came up.
“I told you they were going to take swings at you,” Pressey joked to Cooke after a particularly tough question came from a class member.
“I got to tell you,” said Cooke after the discussion, “it’s one of the best classes I’ve ever been to. The students were prepared, the questions were amazing. I’ve really enjoyed it. This class has really got its act together.”
According to Cooke’s biography, Cooke earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science at Utah State University, is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is married with five children. Before retiring, Cooke was the commanding general of the U.S. Army 96th Regional Readiness Command and oversaw 10,000 soldiers and civilians over several states. Cooke also served as the director of economic development during Scott Matheson’s governorship.
Jennifer Comer, the veteran student senator at WSU, helped coordinate getting Cooke to speak in the class.
“I have gotten to know General Cooke quite a bit, because I do a lot of stuff for veterans,” she said. “I think he’s a great man and I support him, and if I could get his name out to everybody, I will.”