Obey to grads: Ask yourself if these are consistent with your values

(Part 2 of a report on former Congressman Dave Obey’s commencement address at UW-Stevens Point)

Former U.S. Congressman Dave Obey fired up most of the morning commencement crowd at UW-Stevens Point’s May 16 ceremonies, although there was a more muted response during the afternoon ceremony and at least a few folks who apparently did not look kindly on Obey’s criticism of our approach to education, social responsibility and politics (see yesterday’s post for more).

Click to visit Dave Obey's Facebook page and let him know you appreciate his support of education.

Click on “Dave Obey” in the first paragraph to visit his Facebook page and let him know you appreciate his support of education.

Word is that a very small number of individuals walked out on the speech by Obey, a Democrat from Wausau who served 42 years in the House of Representatives.  It’s easy for many of us to find this ironic, but few of us are any longer surprised by folks who avoid confronting unpleasant truths about social responsibility even while they’re at a celebration of the good that comes from that very thing.

But Obey was reminding us all of a particularly hurtful truth: how easily we have turned our backs on supporting education.

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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.

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Help! I can’t teach!

The happy (and hard-working) graduate

Graduation weekends are always special, but this one was particularly fulfilling for me, as I got to award my niece’s diploma onstage at the UW-Stevens Point afternoon commencement ceremony.  They’re also bittersweet, because graduation means some of our favorite people will be moving on.  Our niece Ivannia Herrera Gonzalez is one of them, and we couldn’t be prouder — she graduated early and magna cum laude.

But it means she’ll probably be leaving town soon. That’s tough, because it’s been really great to have more family around during her time at UWSP.  I’ll also miss our Pointer graduates and a whole slew of other students in communication and other areas.

Their leaving, regardless of how happy I and other faculty members are for them, is made a little tougher by the fact that we get to stay behind and try to keep things running smoothly when it’s clear that public support for education in Wisconsin is in serious trouble.  I went to a picnic tonight that was attended primarily by folks at the university, and that trouble was a constant theme of discussion.  At the same time — perhaps because it is  the end of the year and so many of the picnic guests were still beaming about our new grads and the prospects of at least a little summer break — there was plenty of optimism that we’d somehow survive next year’s troubles, too.

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