I just finished reading David Maraniss’ outstanding book “They Marched Into Sunlight,” which juxtaposes the anti-Vietnam War protests on the UW-Madison campus with an actual battle fought overseas. I’ll have plenty to say about the book in the next few days, given that it contains so much interesting information about Madison and Wisconsin.
There’s one story from the book that I found particularly entertaining, which involves former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin during his protest days. In May of 1966, there was a demonstration to protest the policy of the UW giving out grades to the Selective Service, which had announced that deferments would be granted based on academic performance.
According to the book, Soglin met a girl during the protest, and wanted to take her back to his apartment, as any sane young man would do. Unfortunately, he knew he had to be there for the cameras in case the cops came in to bust everything up. So he snuck outside and found the campus police chief, who assured him that the cops wouldn’t be moving in soon. Having heard what he needed, Soglin and the girl snuck out a little past midnight.
The footnotes say the story was provided by Soglin in an April 10, 2002 interview – and it’s a good one. Naturally, a sizeable portion of the book is about Soglin, as he was an active leader in the anti-war demostrations prior to his years on the city council and as mayor. In fact, it’s probably hard to pick out a more influential political figure in Madison politics over the past 40 years.
This actually illustrates how interesting Soglin is these days. When such a large political figure exits the public stage, it seems they always move on to the lecture circuit, academia, or some special emeritus position where they can stay involved, but not really work all that hard. Soglin, on the other hand, has just continued out in the workforce. Essentially, he’s a dude with a job, like everyone else. (Although he does teach a class at the UW) And he’s also a dorky blogger like the rest of us. That is actually great – although a little different than the paths taken by other political bigshots.