Education First — Because it Lasts

John - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Entered on January 16, 2012

The Marathon candy bar, manufactured by Mars Incorporated and first sold in the United States in August 1973, consisted of eight inches of braided chocolate and caramel. I remember television commercials for the candy that featured good guy Marathon John who would regularly confront villain Quick Carl – who could do anything fast. Quick Carl was consistently foiled as Marathon John challenged him to eat a Marathon bar fast. The commercials ended with John proclaiming, “It lasts a good, long time.”

Mars discontinued the candy bar in October 1981, which was about a year after I began my undergraduate education. Unlike the Marathon bar, my undergraduate education has indeed lasted a good, long time. Obtaining a solid undergraduate education cannot be accomplished quickly. However, it should not be a marathon. I believe higher education administrators, university faculty and staff, and state legislators need to work together to ensure that public education is delivered in an efficient and affordable manner so that all of our citizens across the state have access to a top-notch public higher education system. Together we can support and maintain a system that will produce highly educated, technically skilled graduates who can think critically, problem solve, work civilly with others and have a greater appreciation for and an increased knowledge of the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.

In a 1904 speech, UW President Charles Van Hise declared, “I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the University reaches every home in the state.” Even in this era, we need to hold firmly to the Wisconsin Idea that the influence and benefit of higher education should be strong, deep, broad, on going, and integrated. We cannot yet be content. We all must promote these priorities as critical to the future flourishing of our state, nation and world.

My undergraduate education has been the foundation of much of my professional and personal life. It has prepared me for a wide range of jobs and has afforded me a higher quality of life. In Margery Williams’ story, The Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin Horse explains the process of how toys become real to the Velveteen Rabbit. The Skin Horse states, “It doesn’t happen all at once. You become.” The Skin Horse continues, “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” Obtaining an undergraduate education is a (sometimes arduous) journey. It requires a personal and financial commitment, but it also requires the support of our leaders and citizens across the state. This I believe. Supporting and committing to education is worthwhile as it truly lasts for always.