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"Commencement Speech"
(May 2006)

Winston Churchill quote:

"If it has been said that our dreams uplift our hearts and souls like “wings” giving us vision to see forward into the things yet to take place …..

Then it is also nourishment to the soul – to return to the place of your beginnings … We need vision in this life ahead of us … and we also need the foundation that has been provided us here … with graduation."

UW Fond du Lac is a place of my beginnings … In 1978 I stood where you stand … I proudly picked up my diploma … and I knew that I had a long journey ahead … I was ready – because of the mentorship of my professors – the collegiality and friendships I had made – and the skills and lessons learned in this place … the place of my beginnings and yours…..

The vision I had then …. And have today is “service to others.” …. I had represented the United States at an International Peace Conference in Ottawa, Ontario – and I knew that one day I would serve in government in some capacity.

This commencement speech today – I would like to dedicate to my parents who had the vision and hopes and dreams that I one day would graduate from college …. And I would like to dedicate my thoughts today to a young woman of 43 who exemplifies the three gifts we all need in this life – to turn our dreams and promise of today into a future full of promise.

Kathy Ammerman

Interviewed me as most people do when you run for public office … She asked me how I made decisions and what values were important to me…

We were both former teachers/ professors ….. we both cared deeply about veterans and the military service men and women serving over seas …. We shared a common bond in believing that all children and adults could reach their dreams with education and opportunities …

She started her teaching career in Switzerland teaching at a Dept. of Defense School … it was there that she met her future husband … her spirit was independent – courageous – and full of service to others …. She taught the children that were too often forgotten – the children with special learning needs … and the children who needed a heeling touch ….

Dan’s husband rose through the ranks to Major -- in fact we had a party recently this last month to celebrate his promkotion …. They have 2 beautiful children Keith 12 and Lucy 7 ….

Three years ago … In 2003 when Dan was stationed in Iraq -- Kathy was diagnosed with cancer – it had quickly gone into the limp nodes …. You would have never known she was sick escept to look at her fragile body …. Her spirit and love of people/ life/ service to others was large than anyone’s I had ever seen.

Just yesterday we had a funeral for Kathy to celebrate her life … her spirit and her success in this world ….

I share this story at your beginning of your life …. And the place of my beginnings to remind us all – that it will be the lives you touch … the talents you share … the the blessings of family and community that carries you into the future.

I serve in public office at one of the most difficult times in our nation’s history …. It is an era of corruption … when the voting public has stood silent for too long …. Asleep for too long – believing the best maybe or growing apathetic with politicians and political machines ….

If ever there was a time for a youthful and vibrant spirit like Kathy Ammerman’s to enter politics it would be today …. We all need to challenge the way government is delivered and remember that …

We the people can only exist … if we the people gets involved in this land of the free and this home of the brave….. The lives sacrificed in wartime … the new inventions – success stories – and dreams of things yet to come can never surface with out a “courageous spirit” … one of light – love and innovation …. Such as yours today … such as was mine 28 years ago.

My challenges ahead are defined …. There is much work to do in the US congress to begin to turn our ship of state around so that it resembles the free and democratic nation that was envisioned by our forefathers …..

They say that courage is:

The ability to walk through the fires around you …. Because you believe in something much bigger than you – that will carry you through the fire and home again….

I hope for all of you today … that you find the courage you need to realize your dreams. I hope for all of you today that you have the opportunities of experience – that will give your dreams wings and turn them into the realities that serve, sacrifice and give meaning to other people.

Thank you Dean ____ for giving me the opportunity to come home to the place of my beginnings.

 

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