It seems that every story I tell begins with me waking up obnoxiously early. Since I guess I’ve only heavily hinted at it up until now, I should say straight out that I am not a morning person. Far from it. You would know this if you’ve ever talked to me before nine a.m; I may have been incoherent, or I may have been mean. What I’ve come to learn, however, is that although they start sluggishly, and usually with little natural light, early mornings often lead to fantastic days.
Today was Support the U Day. A three-hour bus ride during which I managed to pour people’s OJ without sloshing it all over their jeans, teach the Minnesota Rouser to everyone (while possibly singing/chanting out of tune; ask the guy who stood in front of me), and accomplish nothing homework-related.
Then we arrived, and despite attempts to be everlastingly blasé, my mouth hung open just a tad. I’ll never fail to be impressed by the state capitol building. It’s marble and murals and an echoing rotunda and an inspiring portrait of Jesse Ventura in the basement:
In the standing-around-and-gaping stage before the rally began, (Support the U Day, I must explain, is when students of the University of Minnesota bus down to the Capitol to talk to their legislators about the importance of funding the U), President Kaler (of the U of MN) came up and shook my hand. Well, we all know how I get around famous people. I stuttered something about us being from Morris, while wondering if my handshake had been limp. Everyone hates a limp handshake.
We pause for a moment in order for the writer to mention that she is currently blogging in her apartment stairwell (for lack of a better place to go), and that the RA just came by on his rounds. Your friendly blogger scared him half to death, which was fairly entertaining, especially paired with the fact that it’s awfully difficult to explain yourself when you and Mac are sitting in a stairwell on a Friday night.
And back to the story…
The rally was kicked off (as all rallies should be) with speeches. We heard from President Kaler, from Governor Dayton, and from various student leaders. Then Morris folks, at the count of four, began clapping out the Rouser. We ended up singing alone (despite, I must add, the number of other U of MN students in the vicinity), but it was fun and it got everyone revved for some lobbying.
Unfortunately, and unlike last year, students were not able to meet with their legislators (from their home districts) individually. Instead, because both the senate and the house were in session, we had to send notes into the forums, asking certain legislators to come out and chat with us. Most of them were kind enough to do so, and we huddled around them in vaulted hallways, listening to them defend their votes with regards to the U. They all said, of course, that the University is important, and that we (the students) are the future. Yes, yes. But then why are you cutting University funding down to 20% of our budget request? How do you expect us to live up to the high standards we’ve established-technological innovation, top-notch research, sustainability, global outlook, academic excellence, etc.-if you won’t provide us with the means to maintain them? How do you expect our generation, and the next, to lead the state someday, when we consistently feel that the state doesn’t value our education? What do you have to say to the first generation college student who works three part-time jobs while at school, and will still graduate with $30,000 worth of student loans?
Those are some of the questions we had, and will continue to have, as the state continues to hole up in the Capitol and ignore the needs of its most valuable resource.
The bus ride home was quieter; most people snuggled down into their jackets and slept. A few Disney singalongs floated up from the back of the bus, but I was too far gone to think about joining in. So far gone, in fact, that when I finally awoke, I had a spot of drool on my sweater. Attractive.
Tomorrow, I am happy to report, has the makings of being just as powerful of a day. At 10:30 I’m going to a creative non-fiction writing workshop led by Michael Perry (http://sneezingcow.com/). Having read an excerpt from “Coop” in class, and having attended his reading/concert earlier this evening, I can safely say that I will be learning a lot in this workshop. And that I want to read all of his books, and will do so the minute Amazon delivers them to me.