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Benishek cures my political apathy

April 17, 2011
By Matt Wellens - Journal Sports Editor , The Mining Journal

For the first time in my life, I'm no longer a Wisconsin resident.

I've spent four years of my life in Marquette attending Northern Michigan University and five months working for The Dickinson Press in North Dakota.

But I always clung to my Wisconsin driver's license with the old mug shot from high school and the "America's Dairyland" plates on the front and back of my vehicles.

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Matt Wellens

Last week, that all changed.

I retired my plates that were an ode to cheese and milk for a single plate on the rear of my Toyota that saluted my alma mater.

I also got an updated mug shot for my Michigan driver's license so when I buy a six-pack of KBC at Econo Foods, cashiers don't look twice wondering why a 26-year-old is giving them an ID with the picture of a zit-faced teenager.

I even picked up a voter registration card so I could be a good citizen and do my civic duty in my new state. But there was still one problem - my heart politically was still in Wisconsin.

You may have heard about the "Crisis in the Dairyland," as it has been dubbed by the Daily Show's Jon Stewart.

Depending on what side of the aisle you sit on, it's either about selfish, greedy Cheesehead teachers destroying society, or Gov. Scott Walker enslaving the poor, starving employees of the Badger State.

In reality, the Democrats are trying to save their biggest donors while the Republicans are trying to squash their stiffest opposition in order to win the 2012 election.

The battle that has been blown up by Fox News, MSNBC and Comedy Central has kept me fixated on my home state.

While Michigan has its problems, I should be worried about as a resident, I just wasn't. Michigan's politics just didn't resonate with me as a voter.

That all changed Tuesday when I learned about the end of the B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarship program and the lack of support it received from the Upper Peninsula's representative in the House, Mr. Dan Benishek.

For the record, I tend to be more liberal in my beliefs.

I voted for President Obama and supported Sen. Russ Feingold in recent elections.

I believe health care is a right, not a privilege, that homosexuals have the right to be happily or miserably married just like heterosexuals and that men should just butt out of the abortion debate and let women decide that issue.

I support education because it can create a better life for someone. I don't understand how you fix a broken economy by cutting funding to programs that help people earn a better wage.

I also feel strongly about something both parties can agree on, and that's fully supporting the men and women who represent our country and give it pride - whether that be our armed forces abroad and overseas or the Olympic athletes that we cheer to gold.

Benishek apparently doesn't feel the same way, however, as I do about supporting education and those who represent the stars and stripes.

To him, college scholarships and Olympic dreams are just special interest earmarks.

"While the safest political course would be to support this popular local initiative, I cannot do so and still honor the greater promise I made to voters to be fiscally conservative with federal tax monies," Benishek said in a statement published by The Mining Journal.

The B.J. Stupak Scholarship program is more than just a local initiative.

It affects student-athletes not only in Marquette, but those in Colorado Springs, Lake Placid, N.Y. and Chula Vista, Calif., not to mention training centers in Oklahoma, Alabama and Wisconsin.

Thousands of student-athletes each year not only are trying to do their best to make America proud in athletic competition, but by becoming educated, as well.

That sounds like a pretty good program and good use of taxpayer money in my mind, especially when the $343,000 given to NMU and USOEC athletes results in a $20 million impact on the local economy in Marquette, according a Lake Superior Partnership study.

But what does this sports editor know about government and politics?

I'm just a dumb jock who writes about sticks and balls.

That's why I turn to one of the wisest men I know - USOEC head boxing coach Al Mitchell.

Mitchell, who has seen his boxing program help inner-city kids achieve a better life through sport and education cut before, spoke frankly with Mining Journal Senior Sports Writer Craig Remsburg on Tuesday.

"When you talk about education and getting inner-city kids out of the 'hood' and showing what they can do with the right help, (not funding them) blows your mind," Mitchell said.

It blows my mind, too, Al. I hope others feel the same way.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is



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