From Wisconsin to California and Back

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In his final months as governor of Wisconsin in 1962, Gaylord Nelson offered these reflections to a Rosary College student working on a project for her speech class.

Her questions about his political development allowed him to comment on how the places of his childhood influenced him. His hometown, the small village of Clear Lake, may have been a long way from the corridors of the state capitol, but it was in as swept up as any other place in the vigorous activities of the Progressive Party in the early twentieth century. His father and mother became party leaders in the county and so Nelson figured he "probably heard about politics from [his] earliest conscious moment."

He writes here that he went to college in California so he could see a new part of the country. In those travels he came face to face with drastic environmental degradation, which he attributed to the state's "population explosion."

He returned to Wisconsin resolved to prevent the land of his youth from meeting the same fate.

The Rosary student's experience mirrored Nelson's, as she writes that "going to school in Illinois has only made me appreciate the wonderful hills and beautiful countryside of Wisconsin." She then applauds Nelson on his first major conservation initiative: the Outdoor Recreation Action Program.