One year ago, do you know where you were? I do.
I was standing in the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capital experiencing history and lending a calm voice to the chaos. You see, I believe people are important, not money. Dignity, not ignominy. Moderation, not extremism.
I didn’t plan to travel to Madison that day but I did, for two reasons:
- The night before, a coworker of mine asked me to go with her. Public school employees get one personal day each school year and I used mine to join my young friend on a 5 a.m. bus headed to Madison. Why? As a single, public employee my friend was afraid the changes Scott Walker proposed would make it impossible for her to work in the schools any longer. She is an excellent speech/language pathologist and could make more money working in the medical community but she has chosen to work in the public schools during the day and work part-time for the private sector on evenings and in the summer. I wanted to lend my support as she grappled with a world gone mad and faced tough decisions about future employment. (For those who are not aware, we currently have a shortage of speech/language pathologists working in public schools in our state and across our nation.)
- The other reason I wanted to go? Moderate voices are being drowned out by both political parties. It seems one extreme makes concessions to the other extreme so both extremes get their way some of the time. This incredible gamesmanship has lead to opposing extremist agendas, signed pledges, and weird thinking that benefit no one. Last February 17th, I wanted to bring my own moderate voice to the capital to act as a ripple in this storm of discontent.
We arrived in Madison before 9 a.m. so were able to walk into the capital and position ourselves on the main floor in the rotunda. We expected to bear witness to the passage of the ‘Budget Repair bill’ that day.
Then the unexpected started to happen. First we heard a rumor the 14 Democratic senators had left the senate chambers. Then we heard they had left the building. Shortly after, we heard the senators were on the interstate traveling away from Madison. The volume in the rotunda became deafening. Finally we heard state troopers had been ordered to chase down the missing senators but too late, they had left the state. And then…
Since the 14 Democratic senators were not present, the vote could not proceed.
The crowd was stunned, amazed and hoarse from letting our voices be heard that day.
This was not a planned rally. This was not organized by special interests. This was a group of regular people from all over the state of Wisconsin who found themselves in cars and on buses going to Madison on this day. Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like…
I must say, I do love the people of this state.
Let us not gang up against each other but rather, let us live with kind words, acts of service and voices of reason. We are better than the talking points we are fed each day on television.
Happy February 17th Wisconsin!