Contrast the life experience of Mary Burke and Scott Walker.
A last-minute attack from the Walker campaign and its conservative allies against Mary Burke brings up an interesting issue. Do we expect our leaders to never have failed at anything?
The gist of the attack is that Burke was supposedly asked to step down from her position as head of Trek's European operation after she had spent a few years setting it up. A couple of (partisan Republican) former executives who were there at the time say that's what happened, but current company spokespersons (and a Madison alder who was a Trek executive) confirm Burke's statements.
But does it matter? Would it be the worst thing in the world to have failed at something? People lose jobs all the time. (I know something about that.) It doesn't mean they're incompetent for life. It means that for whatever reason, something at that moment wasn't working.
In Burke's case, she took some time off and then rejoined Trek in another big job, head of global planning, which she held for several years. No one suggests she was fired from that. And then she went on to serve as Wisconsin Commerce Secretary.
What's even more useful to know is that Burke has had diverse life experiences. Two stints as an executive for a highly successful global company. Secretary of Commerce. Harvard MBA. A generous philanthropist who essentially built a new Boys & Girls Club on Allied Drive in Madison, where it was needed most. Creator of programs to close the achievement gap in Madison schools. School board member -- one of the most thankless jobs in public service. World traveler. And, yeah, she knows how to snowboard.
Contrast all that with her opponent. Scott Walker has had a very narrow life experience. He was elected to the State Assembly when he was 26. He served there for nine years, and then became Milwaukee County Executive, a job he held until he became governor. That's it. End of story. No record of philanthropy or working with kids or much in the way of seeing the world or -- and this is most interesting -- any private sector experience at all.
After awhile, you figure out that it's life's difficulties that makes you stronger. In a job like governor, there are so many decisions to make where you have to reach back and draw on your own experiences. I'd rather have someone in that office who has a deeper pool of experiences, even if -- no, make that especially if -- it comes with a few setbacks along the way.