Senator features

New senator is always learning

Above: Sen. Wendy DeBoer and her nieces enjoy some reading time.

There are moments when Sen. Wendy DeBoer catches herself mid-sentence. She’s earned four advanced degrees, and is pursuing a fifth, and knows she can give more details in response to a question than the asker might have expected.

“This is nerdy, but that’s who I am,” she said.

DeBoer, who lives in Bennington, has never stopped learning. That relentless pursuit of knowledge, plus a career change, has led to the following academic resume:

• B.A. in English and economics, Hastings College;
• J.D., University of Nebraska College of Law;
• M.A. in English literature, University of Nebraska at Omaha;
• M.A. in theology, Lutheran School of Theology;
• M.Phil in religious studies, Syracuse University.

She hopes to finish her PhD in philosophy of religion, but, “I can’t work on it
right now,” she said, gesturing at a desk covered in legislative bills.

DeBoer, who attends Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Omaha, considered going to seminary to become a pastor, but instead chose law. Seminary, though, kept calling. She considered leaving the legal profession, but was in the midst of an environmental case and didn’t feel right about stepping away. When it quickly settled out of court, DeBoer made the move.

“A week later I was in an English master’s class in a different state,” DeBoer said. “I felt that calling, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer.”

She’s been either a student or a teacher, usually both, ever since. One area of emphasis included 20th Century Christian thought focusing on hope and eschatology—the study of the end of the world.

The 1960s were an inflection point when cultural views of authority and morality began to change, DeBoer said.

“The 20th Century was the first time that humans were aware that they could easily blow themselves up very quickly. We could bring about the end of the world ourselves. It had a profound effect about how we think about the distant future because that distant future got a lot closer,” she said.

One issue DeBoer thinks about often is the caustic nature of modern politics. Tribalism and name-calling were reasons she became a candidate.

“There’s only a certain number of times you can say ‘somebody ought to do something about that’ before you say, ‘wait, maybe I should do something about that,’ ” she said.

She began thinking about running for office after returning to Omaha from Syracuse in 2016. She’d always come home during summers breaks, but this time it was for good.

“I was always trying to get back here. It just had to be the right time,” DeBoer said.

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