WIPPS 2015 Spring News: Nearly 1,000 attend Obey, Petri Civic Participation Series in March, more than 15 appearances in April

Dave Obey, left, and Tom Petri, have interview with Daily Herald Media’s reporter Thursday afternoon, March 12, 2015, at the UWMC Center for Civic Engagement in Wausau.

With 70 years of combined public service to the citizens of Wisconsin, retired Congressmen Dave Obey and Tom Petri recognize the partisan divide is degrading public debate. “It isn’t just the politicians that are polarized these days. The country is as well,” Obey said.

During the second week of March, the congressmen held forums in Marshfield, Wausau, Rhinelander, Mercer, Ashland, Rice Lake and Cadott. Both said they hope their lecture series will prompt residents and students to engage in the political process, despite the vitriol surrounding political decisions and figures.

Petri and Obey long for a return to the civil discourse practiced by America’s leaders in the years following World War II.
“You can have constructive as well as destructive disagreements, and sometimes as you debate and argue and differ, you learn something,” Petri said.

Rachel Chamberlain, a social studies teacher at Cadott High School, said that after 130 students attended the forum, “The students overwhelmingly felt more like they could participate in their government. They loved the stories that Congressmen Obey and Petri shared about their own experiences entering politics at a young age.”

In April, Congressmen Obey and Petri continued with a southern tour that included more than 15 appearances in Madison, Milwaukee and Waukesha.

Highlights included introductions by UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and forums at Edgewood College, Milwaukee Area Technical College and UW-Waukesha – with hundreds of students attending or viewing remotely. Wisconsin Public Radio hosted the congressmen for an interview during the Joy Cardin Show, and Wisconsin Eye’s Steve Walters taped a short but probing segment. Find links to these programs and more media coverage at http://www.wipps.org.

WIPPS, along with the David R Obey Civic Resource Center and the Wisconsin Humanities Council, have collaborated to host this series, and are grateful to the congressmen for their time and insight.