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New Obey Center Aims To Be Learning Resource For Future Leaders

Facility's Grand Opening Set For Wednesday

Former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey
Photo: Gephardt Government Affairs

The grand opening for the David R. Obey Civic Resource Center takes place on Wednesday on the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County campus in Wausau, and the former congressman and namesake said he hopes the facility gets a new generation of leaders interested in politics.

A little over a year ago, Obey — with harmonica in hand — joined his friend, folk-music legend Peter Yarrow, on stage at UW-Marathon County, where Obey went to school back in the 1950s. The concert raised money for a center that will provide access to more than 2 million of the congressman’s papers.

Obey said he hopes the center also inspire a new generation of political leaders.

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“I hope that this facility will demonstrate to students that you can have an impact in politics,” he said. “I know when I started as a student at the University Center there, I had very little self-confidence. I didn’t think that I could ever impact any of these great national issues.”

The impact the congressman had is reflected by the guest list at Wednesday’s grand opening: Democrats like U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Wisconsin Republicans like U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy and Tom Petri; and taped messages from political icons like Melvin Laird, a former U.S. representative and defense secretary, and former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Obey said there will also be a message for young people: You can make a difference.

“When they see that the wealthiest 1 percent of people in society have 50 percent or more of the nation’s wealth, they think that the system is rigged and that they shouldn’t bother to get involved because they can’t beat things,” he said. “It is increasingly difficult, but if you don’t try, you’re going to miss opportunities to really change things.”

Will the David R. Obey Civic Resource Center really change things? That remains to be seen.

As Yarrow, famous as a member of 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary, often sings, “The answer is blowing in the wind.”

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