A Well-Deserved and Welcome Endorsement for Milwaukee Succeeds

quotation marksBy Bill Henk – Hey, it’s not every day that I get quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Yesterday was one of them.

Admittedly it does seem to happen a few times each year.  Mostly the quotes result from answers I give to the questions reporters ask about a fairly wide range of educational topics.   Rightly or wrongly, they presume that someone in my role can shed light on one of these issues for their readership.  Sometimes clarifications are sought, other times elaborations, and still others they’re looking for me to voice a professional opinion.

Either way, there is always some degree of gain or risk any time someone in a position like mine is interviewed.

These requests can be flattering on one level, although I know that they’re a function of my office rather than any affirmation of me professionally or personally.  And, goodness knows the questions can be daunting, especially if the topic amounts to a highly charged one or requires a notable stretch in expertise.

Nonetheless, I’m usually very forthcoming, and always hope that whatever shows up in print or e-media afterward comes off as thoughtful or at least respectable. Believe me, it’s dreadful when the one or two quotes that are lifted from a long telephone conversation amount to the stupidest things I’ve said during the session (which frankly are fair game) or play badly out of context.

But yesterday’s quote was different.  It was not in response to a reporter’s questions.  It was self-initiated.  It carried no real risk.  It appeared precisely as I intended.   I didn’t have to sweat which ideas would be selected, how my remarks would be interpreted, or that my sentiments would be diminished when offered out of the context in which they were given.

Why?  Because it came from a Marquette Educator blog post I wrote myself  some time ago.  And the informal statements I made came from my heart — something that is rarely evident in objective media accounts.

MKES-Milestone-Report-2013More specifically, the quote served as a lead-in to an editorial piece about Milwaukee Succeeds, the large community-based partnership aimed at raising the bar for education in our region.  The partnership had used the quote previously for various communication purposes, and I’ve always regarded that as an honor.  This time around the remark was used in the partnership’s recently released Milestone Report, and the Journal Sentinel excerpted it from there.

I’ll conclude by sharing the quote with you, but in the meantime, let me provide the link to the important op-ed piece here which I STRONGLY encourage you to read.

Let me be clear at this point that it’s the spirit of the lead-in quote that matters, not at all the fact that it came from me.

And most of all, it’s the exceedingly enthusiastic public endorsement of Milwaukee Succeeds by the Journal Sentinel that I find most gratifying.  The initiative has made steady and significant progress since its inception, but the extraordinary efforts of the Executive Committtee, Leadership Council, the Operations Team, the multiple strategy networks, the staff, and all of the support teams hasn’t risen to the level of public attention it deserves.   So, seeing our local newspaper go on the record to voice its belief in the noble, ambitious, and vital work of the initiative is what literally made my day.

To give you perspective on why all of us connected with Milwaukee Succeeds dearly welcomed the JS endorsement, I’ll share with you another quote from a second post I wrote about the initiative after it was further along:

…building an infrastructure sufficiently robust to address the scope and severity of our community’s educational problems is no small feat. And it’s exceedingly time-consuming. Not surprisingly, tension is bound to manifest, because there is an urgent need to remedy the situation so that young lives are not lost inthe meantime. For those of us who want systemic, rapid change, it’s hard to be patient, but we must, because the work is enormous in scale, complicated, organizationally and politically unwieldy, and messy. Against this formidable backdrop, we need, more than anything else, to stay the course.”

Without further adieu, here’s the “original” quote:

Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist. Maybe I’m naïve. Maybe I’m unrealistic. Maybe my educational expertise isn’t sufficient to anticipate how much can and will go wrong. Or maybe I just can’t bear the thought of failing the kids again. It doesn’t matter. I’m all in. And for the long haul.”

Milwaukee Succeeds WILL succeed.  And you can quote me on that.

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