Danny Reinan, News Editor
Governor Tim Walz and First Lady Gwen Walz might appear to be unrelatable figures to students who are still discovering their place in the world; yet, the stories that they told when they visited campus earlier this week were of their humble beginnings.
“Don’t let me lose you there because you’re saying ‘wait a minute, that’s the Governor, and isn’t she the First Lady, and like, that probably is not in my future,’” said Gwen Walz. “That’s what I would’ve been thinking. But I want to tell you that all things in service are possible and some of these stories will serve to connect my life with your life. And Tim’s life with your life. And all of our service together.”
The two public officials came to visit campus as a part of the University’s Augsburg Bold Speaker Series, a set of programming put into place in response to COVID-19 that aims to invite a variety of speakers to campus to share their perspectives on the current state of the world and carrying out their work in the context of the pandemic. The Quad serves as the stage for all Bold speakers, and the area has been converted into an outdoor seminar space with 60 chairs physically distanced from one another. Spectators may also view speakers on a simultaneous Zoom livestream which has a built-in Q&A feature, ensuring that those tuning in virtually are not excluded from the experience.
Both the Gov. and Gwen Walz have had a close relationship with Augsburg for a number of years. This closeness is particularly evident in Gwen Walz’s roles as the Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Partnerships and as a Fellow in the Sabo Center, roles she has held since early 2019. But after the pandemic hit, the two needed to step away from Augsburg to focus on implementing safety procedures across Minnesota. This has been their first return to campus since.
Morning after morning, every agency Gov. Walz works with thoroughly reviews the foundational details of the pandemic’s impact, aiming to synthesize their knowledge and observations so that they can come together and tackle the pandemic as a unit. “I make the same analysis,” he said. “If we get that all right… we got a better chance of solving the big problems. So, in service and leadership, I would say this: do sweat the little things. They matter.”
The importance of stories was an idea that carried throughout both speakers’ messages to the community. Gwen Walz’s leadership began in the classroom, but eventually led her to the congressional office and then the governor’s office. Each shift in role meant redefining what leadership meant to her. “It’s really important in your own leadership journey to define clearly for people around you what you believe the word ‘responsibility’ means,” she said. “What you believe the word ‘success’ means. What you believe the word ‘trust’ and ‘service’ means.
Because they mean different things to different people.”
“So tell your stories,” Gov. Walz said in his concluding words to the Augsburg community. “Be true to your stories. Be honored to serve. That’s Augsburg, that’s place, that’s knowing, that’s owning who you are and looking to what you bring because we need who you really are.”