Dave Obey to graduates regarding politics: “Only you can change that.”

Former U.S. Congressman Dave Obey at UWSP's May 2015 commencement. Click picture for full address (begins at 47:47 on UWSP's YouTube channel).

Former U.S. Congressman Dave Obey fires up the morning commencement crowd at UWSP’s May 2015 ceremony as Chancellor Bernie Patterson listens. Click on the picture for his full address, which begins at the 39:15 mark (video posted on UWSP’s YouTube channel).

There’s little doubt among supporters of education, and probably most honest supporters of democracy, that we’re in the midst of a very dark period in Wisconsin’s history. The answers to getting out of the dark were laid out to UW-Stevens Point graduates by former Congressman Dave Obey of Wausau at the university’s May 16 commencement.

I’ll have another post addressing Obey’s commencement thoughts tomorrow. His three primary pieces of advice follow below.

“The fact is that money in politics and what has happened with redistricting is making government far more unaccountable than it ought to be in a democracy,” Obey said, citing examples of the 40:1 spending advantage that corporations have leveraged in their Washington lobbying efforts as opposed to unions.  He faulted both Republicans and Democrats on the redistricting issue.

“So my advice to you is don’t vote for anybody in either party if they will not commit to vote to change the districting policy … so that the maps are produced by bipartisan citizen organizations,” Obey said. “You cannot  trust either party … to draw lines that are in the best interest of the country.

“They will draw lines that are in the best interest of their party, and only you can change that.”

Another suggestion, he said, was that graduates should live by a principle he asked all visitors to his office to consider when they had requests for him. He always suggested they read a sign containing the question, “Is there anything you want me to do for somebody besides yourself that’s more important than whatever it is that you want me to do for you today?”

Obey continued, “If you cannot answer that question, if you do not at least think about it, then, in a democracy, you are a menace. You need to think in terms of the needs of the whole, not just the needs of people like yourself. If you do that, this country will have no problems.”

Finally, he suggested graduates remember the words of President Teddy Roosevelt, whom he quoted as saying, “This country will not be a good place for anybody to live in until we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”

 Tomorrow: Dave Obey on education.

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