Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, December 8, 2016

Close ties between UW, state critical to success, Thompson says in journal article

Close ties between UW, state critical to success, Thompson says in journal article

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson shared his commitment to The Wisconsin Idea – the principle that the university is intricately tied to the state – in the most recent issue of Public Administration Review (PAR).

“While today’s challenges differ in some ways from those that we tackled in my time as governor, I believe strongly that this collaborative approach remains the most effective way to solve them and ensure prosperity and health for the people of our state,” Thompson said in the November/December 2016 issue of PAR.

Thompson, Wisconsin’s longest-serving governor, shared similar thoughts in May, when he addressed the most recent graduates from UW–Madison’s Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs. After serving as governor from 1987 to 2001, he led the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services until 2005.

“The Wisconsin Idea informs how best to identify and frame a public challenge or opportunity,” Thompson said in the PAR perspective article. “It expects leaders to introduce their solutions and proposals that fix or improve. It encourages leaders to solicit views from all quarters. It uplifts the quality and tone of healthy debate, so vital to our republican democracy. And, it results in the best public policy.”

The genesis of The Wisconsin Idea is attributed to UW President Charles Van Hise, who in a 1905 speech declared: “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state.”

UW–Madison classmates Van Hise and La Follette forged close ties between the university and the state government. Faculty experts consulted with legislators to help craft many influential and ground-breaking laws, Thompson said in the PAR article.

“As a proud UW alumnus, I carried The Wisconsin Idea with me as governor and as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The collaboration that inspired Van Hise was fundamental to how I would lead and govern,” Thompson’s PAR article said. “Why? Because good policy makes good politics. The citizens of Wisconsin agreed.

“It is a powerful principle that relies on all citizens, educators, researchers, and policymakers to engage. And, it is critical to the continued success of our state, our nation, and the society we maintain, build, and pass on.”

Thompson added that he was honored to address the La Follette School’s Class of 2016 in the state capitol’s Assembly Chamber, where he began his political career representing his hometown of Elroy.

“I told them to be bold and fearless. I challenged them to always do their best. And, I thanked them for their commitment to public service,” he said in the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management publication. “It was important to me because La Follette School graduates have the ability to critically analyze information, challenge assumptions, and defend their positions. These skills and knowledge are the threads of a strong and vibrant society.

“And, with this accomplishment, they demonstrate their desire to do more and do better. I was glad to encourage them. Simply put, we need these people to make our government—local, state, and federal—operate effectively and efficiently. They represent the integrity and honor we need in the United States and across the world.”