More Than Just A Second Chance
There are a few touch points in the cycle of life when government has a chance to really impact a person's future. During these times, government-done-right can help break the cycle of poverty and welfare dependency that has trapped too much potential for too long. The most obvious point is K-12 education. Research by The Brookings Institution shows that if you follow three simple rules, you have a 98% chance of not living in poverty and a nearly 75% chance of living in the middle class. 1. Finish high school. 2. Get a full time job, and 3. wait until 21 to get married and have children. Pretty simple stuff, really. Getting students ready for their high school graduation day is an important duty of government--it sets a person up for a full-time job and should teach life skills necessary to make good choices down the line.
Another impact point is when someone enters our correctional institution. At that point, a person is literally a "captive audience"--and we can use that time to try and set someone's life on a different course. Job training, GED and tech college classes, mentorship, work experience through Badger State Industries, structure and stability, rehab and counseling, all can happen as part of someone's correctional experience. And when that person reenteres society, as 97% will, there's hopefully a hand-off to family, friends, and community organizations. That's the way we cut down on recidivism, leading to safer neighborhoods and less crime.
This week Wednesday I joined Rep. Rob Hutton, chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Corrections, for a deep dive on nonprofit reentry resources in Milwaukee. We visited the Center for Self-Sufficiency and Milwaukee Works, where I learned about their workforce training programs. We saw Operation DREAM, which works with at-risk youth to learn not just job skills, but also respect, independence, and discipline. We came away encouraged but with adjusted expectations, and also with a few ideas for policy changes. Throughout this coming year, I'm going to continue with a special focus on reentry issues, because we want to give people more than just a second chance--we want to offer a better, more meaningful way of life.
Living the good life
As you all know, I got cancer. As you may not know, I didn't really have the right symptoms to lead to a quick, easy diagnosis. And the symptoms I did have I attributed to a brutal political campaign. This year I went to spend some time encouraging those patients and caregivers dealing with a rotten diagnosis, and encourage you to be your own best patient advocate. My story was told by an old TV friend of mine, and I hope it's not too graphic for you (that's NOT my large intestine featured in the middle of the show!) It's a short clip--under seven minutes and a pretty raw look at what happened to me.
This video is the first in a series of activities I'm undertaking to celebrate five years of cancer-free. I hope my story can help others to be their own best patient advocates--to take disease seriously; to learn, ask, question, and probe doctors and other experts; to take charge of your own health and decisions. We shouldn't be passive victims of disease; we should be active fighters for a full life, whether that means a fulfilling final goodbye or an all-out assault on cancer. Everybody's experience is different, but everyone can and should be informed enough to make good choices. If you're aware of people, places, or programs that are empowering patients generally or offering centers of excellence for cancer treatment specifically, just reply to this email and share your suggestions. I'm proud to stand with you in your fight.
It's always a joy to celebrate excellence and innovation in our state, which is why I'm so excited about three opportunities right now: the Governor's New Product Award, the Governor's Export Achievement Awards, and the Governor's Business Plan Competition. All three are annual contests by which state government encourages and recognizes the coolest inventions and investments that will grow jobs and prosperity in our state.
The New Product Awards accepts applications through February 15. The Export Achievement Award nominations are due February 5. The Business Plan Contest closes January 31--you only need a 250-word idea abstract at this stage. Learn more at govsbizplancontest.com