Friday, December 22, 2006

Mr. Walz goes to Washington

I have had the pleasure of talking with Congressman Walz on multiple occassions. Many have said he is very "Wellstone" like. I'd have to agree. I met him at the 1st CD Conference in Mankato, held at MSU-M the same weekend as our final MSUSA conference of the year. We went up stairs to grab Senator Hottinger, who was our lunch speaker for the conference. I walked into the convention center and watched of the most energetic and passionate speakers I have ever seen. He motivated me...

We found Senator Hottinger and went about our business. Since we were in Delegates Assembly, which I had no role in, myself and a few board members snuck up to the Convention. I introduced myself to the Congressman and we had some fun discussions on Army stuff.

About a month or so later, I ran into him again at the State Convention in Rochester. He called me by my name when he saw me. We had another fun chat...during the lull's of the Governor's endorsement.

Dori and I got to see him speak at the State Fair as well! His daughter Hope actually shoved him off the "stump" from which he was speaking on. It was rather comical...watching her hide behind the Congressman, only to then shove him off the "stump".

Anyway, the Strib had a great story today about his send-off! Enjoy!

Students send Mr. Walz off to Washington
With fanfare - and a folding chair - Mankato West students said goodbye to their new congressman, geography teacher Tim Walz.
By Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune
Last update: December 21, 2006 – 9:50 PM

Mankato West High School students helped elect their global geography teacher Mr. (Tim) Walz to Congress, and on Thursday they gathered in the school auditorium, told him they were proud of him and wished him luck.

Walz, a Democrat, unseated six-term U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht, a Republican, in one of the most surprising twists in the November election.

Walz smiled Thursday as he watched a brief movie a student made showing pictures of him campaigning, spliced with segments of the film classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." The choir sang "Defying Gravity" from the musical "Wicked," including the line "My future is unlimited."

About 1,200 students filled the room and cooed for Walz's 2-month-old son, "No-Fuss" Gus, and applauded the nine-year teacher, a favorite who started every hour with 20 minutes of current events discussion and who never assigned homework. He has been on leave since April as he ran for office.

Walz's 4-year-old daughter, Hope, sitting next to his wife, Gwen, helpfully accepted the gifts he was given, including a scarlet Mankato West cap and folding chair. He will soon be given a custom-made school jersey with "Walz '06" on the back.

Walz is one of four freshmen from Minnesota who will be sworn in to Congress next month. He will represent southern Minnesota's First District.

State Rep. Keith Ellison, also a Democrat, was elected to represent the Fifth District, including Minneapolis and inner-ring suburbs. State Sen. Michele Bachmann, a Republican, will represent the Sixth District, which includes northern suburbs through St. Cloud. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, will be the state's junior senator.

Ellison will celebrate his departure from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Union Hall, 2829 Anthony Lane S., St. Anthony. Bachmann did not have plans for a send-off.
Klobuchar plans a low-key send-off from her Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in Minneapolis, where the family will pack up the car Wednesday morning, she said. From there, they will head to Rochester for a noon lunch at Daube's before sleeping for a night in a friend's basement in Chicago.

"Hopefully, we don't encounter blizzards," Klobuchar said. "Over half the senators are multimillionaires. I'm sure I will be the only one arriving in the family Saturn."

'We did it'

From the Mankato West stage, Walz told his students that their optimism shaped his vision. "The crazy, ridiculous part of this is we did it," he said.

He echoed a line from the Mr. Smith movie: "I will do nothing to shame this institution."
When the ceremony was over, a couple of dozen students -- many wearing gold and blue campaign T-shirts -- crowded around Walz.

"Everybody, keep us in mind. We're going to have lots of places for interns," Walz said.
Kelsey Bigbee had Walz as a teacher and, like other students, gave up free time to work on his campaign. "Right off the bat, I knew I was going to like him. He's just a fun guy. He's easy to get along with," she said.

Meeting Karl Rove

Walz told stories from a recent White House luncheon, including an introduction to Karl Rove, the president's political guru. "He gets demonized, but he's very outgoing. He's short, not a big guy.

"He's very funny. He's incredibly smart. He knew exactly how many votes we got," Walz said.
Walz talked about the "surreal" realization that he will be able to cast a vote for a plan to increase the minimum wage. Said senior Kim Braun: "Oh my God, I'm going to have so much money."

Walz talked about adjusting to his newfound clout; his recent comments that the undervaluation of China's currency is the "worst-kept secret in the world" became an international news story. "We can do something about it," he said.

Adriane Otopalik, who made the Walz movie, said, "You thought that stuff before."

Walz added, "No one cared." He told students he'd give them guided tours of Capitol tunnels if they visit. "Hopefully, I'll be there more than two years," he said.

To which senior Kristina Dundas said, "We'll help with that."

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