What is your counsel?

From 1987 to 2001, Tommy Thompson served as the 42nd Governor of Wisconsin, having been elected to an unprecedented four terms. Thompson's initiatives during his 13 years as governor of Wisconsin included his Wisconsin Works welfare reform program and school choice program, which allowed low-income Milwaukee families to send children to the private or public school of their choice at taxpayer expense. He also created the BadgerCare program, designed to provide health coverage to those families whose employers don't provide health insurance but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Through the federal waiver program, Thompson helped replicate this program in several states when he was appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services by President George W. H. Bush in 2001, a position he would hold for four years. Thompson began his career in public service in 1966 as a representative in Wisconsin's state Assembly. He was elected assistant Assembly minority leader in 1973 and Assembly minority leader in 1981. Thompson has received numerous awards for his public service, including the Anti-Defamation League's Distinguished Public Service Award. In 1997, he received Governing Magazine's Public Official of the Year Award, and the Horatio Alger Award in 1998. Thompson has also served as chairman of the National Governors' Association, the Education Commission of the States and the Midwestern Governors' Conference. Thompson also served in the Wisconsin National Guard and the Army Reserve. Currently, he is an independent senior advisor of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and a partner at the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
  • Transcript


Question: What is your counsel?

Tommy Thompson: If I was a benevolent dictator, I would want America and Americans to understand this country and to get involved. This is our government. I have so much difficulty with those pessimists; you know, the backbenchers . . . the ones that are always criticizing and blaming everybody. This is their country and they’re part of it! Don’t sit on the sidelines! Get out and support a candidate! I don’t care who the candidate is. I hope it’s me. Learn how to vote, you know? Keep your kids in school! They can’t do well without doing that. You know, you have a civic responsibility. You brought that child into this world. And whether you’re married or not married, you have a responsibility. Make sure that child gets an education. And make sure that child stays in school. And you Mr. and Mrs. Citizen of America, you have a responsibility. Don’t blame somebody else for your mistakes and your problems. You have to fess up that you’re part of this creation and part of this world. And you have to learn how to vote. And you have to vote . . . you have to participate in this great country we call America. And the only way we can do it is by all of us being involved. And every single one of us have a stake in how our country’s perceived internationally; how our country is doing domestically; and how we’re gonna become energy independent; how we’re gonna clean up the environment; how we’re gonna improve education; how we’re gonna transform healthcare; how we’re gonna win the peace in Iraq; and how we’re gonna develop better international relations. And every single person has got a stake in making this happen. I liken those people, you know, that are always on the backbenches, always criticizing you and me Tommy, as individuals who get up in the morning and eat grapefruit and suck lemons all day. I want people, you know, with a passion of doing good, of making America, you know, better! And make yourself better in the process. You know, do what is necessary to improve yourself and your family. And do what is better to improve your city, your state, and your government. You’re there . . . You’re on the earth for a short period of time. Make your time mean something.

Recorded on: 7/6/07