Stateline Story

America Under Fire: North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven

  • November 08, 2001
  • By Greg McDonald
Like most Americans, North Dakotans would like nothing better than to catch and punish those responsible for the September 11 attacks and the anthrax scare that has followed in their wake. But North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven believes there's another way for citizens to come to terms with what's happened to the nation.

It's simple, he says. "We must all...protect each other."

"I believe both citizens and public officials in North Dakota realize that we must all be more vigilant; we must all play a role," Hoeven said in an email interview with Stateline about how the events of September 11 have changed government and its citizens.

"In this sense, each state and each individual is part of the fabric of homeland security, each of us doing our part to protect each other and our country," he said.

Hoeven, a former banker schooled at Dartmouth in history and business who is now in his first term, was preoccupied before September 11 with dealing with his state's economic problems. But forced into emergency mode by the attacks and anthrax scares since, he has become a fast learner on terrorism and the rippling effects even the simplest threat or hoax can have on the economic and social order of a state.

In early October Hoeven appointed his own homeland security adviser to help him deal with the public's fears and the reality that other terrorist assaults can happen anywhere, anytime. That thought alone, he says, makes "Americans understandably feel less secure."

"Prior to the terrorist attacks, people were concerned about their safety when traveling to certain parts of the world that were areas of known risk. Now they carry that same concern here in their states and in the nation. We no longer take our security for granted," he said, adding that keeping people safe is now one of his top priorities.

"People will always look toward government to take the lead in providing both moral and material support in times of adversity and disaster...I think people believe that state and federal government have a joint responsibility to provide heightened security locally, nationally and internationally, and government at all levels has an obligation to meet that expectation," he said.

"Our approach has been to prepare for emergency incidents; to prevent them, if possible; and to respond quickly and effectively should an incident occur," Hoeven continued. "Aligning our efforts both within the state and across the nation is essential to keep the country moving, to enable people to travel and conduct their lives with reasonable normalcy."