BY JOE LYONS
Joe Lyons- What drew you to St. Norbert College in the first place?
Dan Robinson- Well, I came here because of the job. I worked my first job here at the college, where I worked half-time as director and coordinator of religious education at the parish and half-time as the music minister there. So that’s what brought me. But I was impressed and have been impressed with SNC’s commitment to the students and trying to make the world a better place, both of those coming out of its Catholic, Norbertine and Liberal Arts tradition.
Lyons–How has your time here at St. Norbert College affected your view of the world?
Robinson– I think a couple of different ways. One is I think a commitment to a vision. I think the college does a good job of saying, “This is who we are and this is who we strive to be” and I think that vision has, in turn, formed me. Not only just the idea that you sort of have a good sense of the big picture and how you move towards that, but also this commitment to place and to community. I think it is really important to bring in the diversity of viewpoints in terms of the liberal arts, which I think is a really good thing. I think making spirituality and your relationship with God a high priority is really important. All those things I think have kind of influenced me. I don’t know that they were necessarily new things to me, but I think it reinforced that.
Lyons- What made you decide to run for State Assembly and how do you think St. Norbert College has prepared you to serve there?
Robinson– Well I’ve been in politics for the last few years. I was on the De Pere City Council for six years and I’m currently on the county board of supervisors. And actually, how I got into the City Council, you know I had been thinking about stuff like that before, but then Sam Dunlop, who was a alum of the college and who also worked at the college was on City Council at the time and encouraged me to run. That was good for Sam to be supportive and so I did. Each step of that has taught me something new about government and its role in the community. Looking at the state level, I really feel like we need to get a different perspective and a different direction in the state about making opportunities and making the government and the economy open to everybody; I don’t think we do a good job of that in the state right now. How St. Norbert impacted that is the idea of commitment to the whole, that everybody in the community matters, has gifts to bring,a lot about vocation here at the college and your purpose and what you’re called to do. I believe everyone is called to do something to make a positive impact in the world and everybody needs to have the opportunity to do that. I think that sense of vocation, calling and community and embracing everyone in the community is what I have picked up, and St Norbert reinforced it. Now, it has been turned into how I approach politics.
Lyons- If you were elected, what things would you do to help the students at St. Norbert College?Robinson– Well one of the things we need to look at is student debt. That is a huge issue and it also hurts our economy, because it really limits what students can do. I mean, we have students coming out of college that have great ideas for new businesses, as entrepreneurs, for innovations, but it’s hard to take the risks to do that if you’re worrying about student debt, a huge burden coming out of college. You have to sort of grab whatever you can. There was a bill that was being put to the legislature with the idea of refinancing student debts at a lower interest rate. So I think that would be a really important thing. I also think in general trying to build the economy, making family-supporting jobs more available, to help students get work when they get out of college. I think trying to support internship programs would be really important, not just at the high school level but in college.
Lyons- What are some of the other issues you feel strongly about and that you would try to do something about if you got elected?
Robinson– So we talked about the economy and certainly supporting small businesses and entrepreneurship is a part of that, but also raising minimum wage I think is really important. I think that puts more money in the pocket of consumers. Our economy is 70% driven by consumer spending; so more money in the pockets of consumers means more spending that helps the economy as a whole. The second piece is trying to open up the government for everybody. Right now we’ve got a government that’s too partisan, not willing to work across the aisle on things. I have experience with that at the local level. In Wisconsin you don’t have Democrats and Republicans; it’s about party caucuses, so you just try to find some common ground with people figuring out what is a practical solution, try to bring that kind of attitude but also on a practical level in protecting people’s right to vote. But also redistricting reform: how we draw the district lines in the state is controlled by one party, whoever happens to be in power at the time and it ends up making it such that if you’re in a district where you’re a Republican but it’s heavily drawn to the Democrats then your vote doesn’t really count. And so what we need to do is have district lines that are drawn more evenly and fairly and also encompass a whole community rather than chopping it up. So in order to do that we need to have those district lines drawn by a nonpartisan group. There’s a successful model in Iowa, they’re doing that and we need to adopt that model in Wisconsin. Public safety is another issue we need to focus on, public health, the environment and education. Education is a huge piece. I mean, obviously it’s important to a school like St. Norbert, but also public education because that’s the piece that serves everyone and we can have strong public education in the end.