Oval Office aspiration

He is Marquette’s first alum to explore a run for president of the United States. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker talks about why he feels the call to lead.


How did your Marquette experience influence who you have become?

My time at Marquette is a big part of who I am. It gave me a hunger for knowledge, inspired my commitment to serve and strengthened my appreciation of great friendships.

What is your most important Marquette memory?

I have great memories of new student orientation and Senior Week. I was on the board for both and really enjoyed working with all of the volunteers.

Do you have any regrets about your time at Marquette? 

Sure, I left during my senior year to work for the American Red Cross. After a few years, I met Tonette, we got married, then had Matt and then Alex. Back then, I figured I would finish up my degree over the years. I wish I had the time to go back over the years.

Gov. Scott Walker was a student at Marquette from fall 1986 through spring 1990 and was a senior in good standing when he voluntarily withdrew from the university. Marquette considers alumni to have earned 24 credits.

How did your understanding of the contributions you could make change after you assumed elected office?

After knocking on something like 14,000 doors to win my first election, someone asked me what that had to do with actually serving in office. Once in office it was clear that it takes that kind of determination to reach out to your colleagues and persuade them on any given issue. If I worked hard and had a solid argument, I could do great things for my constituents.

How did it evolve even further as you rose from state representative to county executive to governor?

In the legislative branch, it often takes years to get things done. As a chief executive, I can do things that bring a positive impact on the lives of people immediately. It is all the more reason I feel called to lead — to get good things done.

What is the most-essential lesson you’ve learned?

To make decisions based on what’s best for the next generation, not the next election.

What similarities do you and your sons share and discuss in their experiences as college students?

Matt and Alex are both involved in politics — from College Republicans to national conferences to helping out on my campaigns. Both our sons love to be involved in a big way. Each of them is a great speaker, and they often fill in for me at events. They are both great at technology. This keeps me up to speed on the latest and greatest in electronic media and digital campaigning. Matt and Alex also love sports, so I often check in with them on the latest scores and games. Both of them have been with me to the Rose Bowl to the Super Bowl and to Brewers playoff games.

Would you encourage Matt and Alex to pursue elected office?

First, Tonette and I will support them regardless of career path. Both are interested in politics, even though they have seen firsthand how difficult it can be on a person and his or her family. More than anything, we pray that they pursue God’s calling in their lives. If that is in politics and in government, they would each be great.

What exploration, for you and your family, has gone into discussing this decision?

Tonette and I spent a great deal of time thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it. Both boys said that if we run, they are all in.

You’ve moved from representing constituents in an assembly district to constituents in a county to a state, but all have been Midwesterners like yourself with Midwestern values. How will you broaden your scope to include constituents with different priorities and needs depending on where they live and how they live?

In America, there is a core set of beliefs. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to do and be anything you want. The opportunity should be as equal as possible, but the outcome is up to each of us. These are values that people share all across this great country, and these values make up the American Dream.

You are traveling often and for longer distances. What have you seen that excites you?

Despite the challenges of the past six or seven years, people are not giving up. People are hungry for bold new leadership.

Some insights into influential mentors and choices for respite and fun:

> Most memorable mentors? Tommy Thompson and Mitch Daniels

> Touchstone that keeps you going? Prayer — prayer time by myself, as well as the prayers of others for me and our family.

> Favorite historical figures? Ronald Reagan, our founders and Abraham Lincoln

> For fun and relaxation? For respite, I like to ride my 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King. Together, Tonette and I enjoy watching movies.


  1. Wow! I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with this ‘puff piece’! I don’t believe Walker is guided by the Church’s recognition of the importance and sacredness of our labor. He certainly does not understand the rightful position of labor unions. I believe he should pay more attention to Pope Francis than the Koch brothers.
    However, my main point is my wonder how this poorly written piece could appear in this magazine from this journalism school that is held in such high regard.

    1. Why are you so distrustful of others? Do you believe Unions are always right? Can someone choose a course different than yours and still be righteous?

    2. I am a genuine alumna of Marquette University, having actually earned a degree in Journalism in 1954, unlike Scott Walker who holds no college degree. If, as he says, he is so concerned about what’s best for the next generation, he would not have virtually decimated the University of Wisconsin system and the Milwaukee Public School system–that by slicing budgets, destroying public unions and advancing the cause of charter schools, among many of his pet projects. He is NOT the kind of leader who was “inspired” by a Jesuit code of ethics that I learned during my four years at Marquette.

    3. Unless and until Marquette makes full and honest disclosure of the events surrounding Scott Walker’s departure from the University, I am most disappointed in my alma mater!

      Bob Bichler, Law 1964, rbichler@hhb.com

  2. To the Editors of Marquette Magazine and others of whom it may concern:
    I was extremely disappointed to see Gov. Scott Walker highlighted in the most recent issue of The Magazine Of Marquette University. Angry would actually be more accurate. To tout him as an example of Marquette Alumnae insults those of us who actually DID graduate from Marquette. It insults the compassion for others that is supposed to embody the Marquette Spirit. His claim that Marquette gave him “a hunger for knowledge..” is laughable, considering how he has set about destroying the University of Wisconsin School system as no one ever before. No, Marquette, you should not be bragging about the first “alum” (which he isn’t) to seek the Oval Office. You should be distancing yourself and condemning his hateful policies toward the many issues he embraces: limiting women’s reproductive rights,eliminating fair wages, hindering voting rights, destroying unions and restricting access to the Affordable Care Act, to name just a few. Next time pick a more worthy “alum” that actually stands for and lives the Christian values of Marquette University.

  3. I now live in Arlington, VA. Moved from Ohio 2011.

    This interview is great. Hope it is used in Campaign and let people across nation know that your values are what is needed in America today and in the future.

  4. As a softball player, I would love to hit these easy-toss questions out of the park. As a journalist, I’m embarrassed to think an editor believed this Q&A was a good idea. Where is the question asking the governor to reconcile his anti-intellectualism with the Jesuit ethic of intellectual rigor? Where is the question asking the governor to reconcile his disdain for workers’ rights with the Jesuit pursuit of a just society? Or did you simply assume that, because Mr. Walker is actually not an alumnus of Marquette, he might not be fully aware of the university’s Jesuit mission?

  5. I am deeply disappointed that this interview does not ask tough questions of an individual who seeks the office of the President. The author has squandered a great opportunity to bring transparency to an increasingly opaque and disorienting political system. That the article highlights the definition of the word alum, and asks questions I would expect to see on campaign literature suggests to me that this piece is no more than puff. Shameful.

  6. I was dismayed and angered to see this article – “Oval Office Aspiration: He is Marquette’s First Alum to Explore a Run for President of the United States.”

    Let’s pass over the qualified use of the term “alum” to describe Scott Walker’s standing vis-à-vis Marquette University, or any of the questions that surround his time at the university and his early departure. Let’s also pass over the hollow, sound-bite character of Walker’s answers to questions posed to him in this interview, wherein he appears unable to offer the example of a single faculty member, a single class, a single idea that motivated or inspired him during his years at Marquette.

    On one level what is striking about the Marquette Magazine article is the way that the interviewer fails to engage with any of Walker’s responses. “My time at Marquette . . . gave me a hunger for knowledge.” This from a person whose administration has banned discussion of climate change at the Public Land Trust and whose budget eliminated 18 scientist positions at the state’s Department of Natural Resources. To the question: “What is the most essential lesson you’ve learned?” Walker replies: “To make decisions based on what’s best for the next generation, not the next election.” In view of Walker’s record does this response not warrant a follow-up?

    This leads to a further question: What in Scott Walker’s tenure as governor evinces his embrace of the values for which Marquette University claims to stand such that Marquette now appears to so eagerly claim him as one of its own?

    Walker’s self-proclaimed signature accomplishment is Act 10, the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public workers, closely followed by “right to work” legislation weakening private sector unions. Walker’s actions run counter to a century and more of Catholic social teaching which proclaims the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain – a right endorsed in 2011 at the height of the Act 10 controversy by the Wisconsin Council of Churches and Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki.

    Governor Walker denies the existence of climate change. This in contrast to the words of Pope Francis in his recent encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home,” which states:

    “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. . . . Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. ”

    Governor Walker has put up obstacles to food stamp eligibility and refused federal Medicaid funds, denying health coverage to tens of thousands of Wisconsinites. So much for the simple Gospel mandate to feed the poor and care for the sick.

    Many of us here in Milwaukee first knew President Lovell as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Where was President Lovell, and where was Marquette University, these past few months as the state’s public university system saw its funding slashed, and the fundamental principles of tenure, shared governance, and academic freedom weakened? When Governor Walker attempted to delete the words “pursuit of truth” and “betterment of the human condition” from the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin System? Are all these not goals and values for which Marquette University also stands? President Lovell, did you, as a former chancellor of UWM and now president of Marquette University, not see that a statement of solidarity for the University of Wisconsin from the state’s leading private institution of higher education might have constituted a moral stance?

    Marquette should be embarrassed by Scott Walker’s connection to the university. Marquette University’s embrace of Walker makes me embarrassed for and ashamed of my alma mater.

  7. I notice you have posted what amounts to a disclaimer on the website with Marquette University’s definition of an alum, but please understand that many of us prefer to bestow that title only upon those who actually completed their coursework.Scott Walker is nothing more than a former student.

  8. I strongly echo disappointment and anger at placing such a softball interview with Scott Walker in “our” Marquette Magazine. What a letdown! How inappropriate in the time of political candidacy, how especially offensive in terms of his policies, a contrast to Catholic and Jesuit social teachings. And, finally, what a lousy example of journalism.

  9. I was so very disappointed to open my Marquette Magazine and discover this piece of pseudo-journalism on the non-graduate who has destroyed our state’s schools, environment, care for the poor and elderly, and future, at least for years to come.

    It leaves me wondering who bought and paid for its placement…?

    The cognitive dissonance created by spouting Ignatian spirituality and touting Scott Walker would seem to indicate a need for your editors to practice some discernment, both about their values/mission, and as regards balanced journalism. The paucity of intellectual rigor is astonishing; the lack of moral integrity is utterly dispiriting.

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