Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson spoke about the importance of bipartisanship in local and national issues in a lecture commemorating the life of Wisconsin state senator Paul Offner at UW-Madison Tuesday.
Thompson stressed positive change can be achieved through direct communication between parties, which has become challenging with the growth of social media and technology in general.
“I think we have developed a society where we are talking over each other and around each other and we’re not talking together,” Thompson said.
Using the examples of the federal welfare program, 9/11 and global health, Thompson argued in favor of the power of bipartisanship in formulating positive change.
Thompson said the federal welfare program would not have been possible without Republicans and Democrats working together to understand the situation of mothers on welfare.
“It was a bipartisan thing,” he said. “I didn’t do it alone. I had help from people. I listened. As Benjamin Hooks said, ‘Does anybody listen. Does anybody care?’”
Thompson described how on 9/11 everyone came together to strengthen the U.S., putting aside their political views to help as much as possible.
“When President Bush came to talk to the Congress, Democrats were hugging him and everybody was reaching out to help,” he said.
Thompson also cited the funding gained for Kofi Annan’s global health plan to prevent and fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa as a dual-party success. He said with the support of President Bush and the Democrats in Congress, they were able to raise $5 billion.
In his final words, Thompson brought his point back to UW-Madison and encouraged students to run for public office and get involved in politics.
“I always believed that our best days are still in front of us,” he said. “Lead by the University of Wisconsin and the leadership in this state, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.”
The lecture was sponsored by The Urban Institute, where Paul Offner was a consultant specializing in poverty, and The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs.