Democracy in a Box: Stories from Wisconsin

These boxes are full of more than paper.
On Tuesday, January 17, 2012, hundreds of Wisconsinites from all over the state met in Madison to deliver over 3000 pounds of petitions to recall Scott Walker, Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators.  Many of them, like me, were the County Coordinators from United Wisconsin, people who had been united over the past year to work at the local level to ensure that the recall was successful.  Many were individual organizers and volunteers selected by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to represent their counties.  Every single county in Wisconsin was represented. Every person had a story to tell. And each of us carried not just a box, but the weight and honor of knowing how many other volunteers made possible that moment. It was a moment of lived democracy, and I have never experienced anything like it.

Me and my box of democracy
For me personally, it was a day of overwhelming joy; all of the anxiety and concern and outrage and worry of the past 60 days was released. And I found myself completely free to do something I haven't done nearly enough in the past 12 months: smile.  While I saw many people shed tears of joy, exhaustion, exhilaration and hope that day, I couldn't stop smiling enough to shed a single tear. By the end of the day, my face hurt from smiling so much.  We did it. We, the people, collected over 1,000,000 signatures to recall Walker in just 60 days. One million people sought us out, stood in the cold, pulled over in busy traffic on their way home from work, made time to put their name into those boxes.  We really did it. And I cannot express how good it feels to be one in that million, and to have had the honor of delivering that message to the Government Accountability Board, demanding government accountability on behalf of a million fellow citizens.  That heavy box of petitions into the GAB was the best weight I've carried since my kids were born.  Those boxes were full of the promise that we've made to each other to never stop fighting for what we know is right. Those boxes were full of democracy.

The people who carried those boxes were volunteers, organizers, activists, parents, community builders.  They are your neighbors and your friends.  Here are some of their stories.

Special thanks to everyone who shared their stories, and to Callen Harty, who took most of the photographs below. If you would like your story added to this collection, please send it (with a photo of you carrying your box, if you have one) to

Geoff Tolley, United Wisconsin Coordinator, Cedar Grove, Wisconsin.  Geoff's blog post on the Daily Kos set off an avalanche of similar stories, so we start by sharing his touching and evocative piece - after Geoff's the rest are in alphabetical order:
Geoff Tolley
So I Carried a Box
A cardboard box.  Not an especially big box.  Not the heaviest I've carried by any means but it had quite a few pieces of paper inside, judging by its heft.  You may well have one matching this description in a corner somewhere.
To be allowed to carry this box was an amazing honor.
This box was packed with the dreams of a million Wisconsinites that we should have the opportunity sooner rather than later to put things right with our state.
This box was packed with thousands upon thousands of hours of work by volunteers who lost friendships, lost their weekends, lost time with their families, lost the feeling in their toes, lost money that they spent getting around to where they were needed, lost their ability to feel secure in their person when expressing their opinion in public.
This box was packed with the efforts of those who'd gone out of their way to find a petition to sign, those who cheered up circulators with a simple smile or a wave or a thumbs up, those who gave us cookies or brought hot chocolate, those who spent the time to listen to us and learn why recall is necessary.
This box was packed with the wishes of those who for whatever reason didn't get a chance to sign but wanted to.
This box was packed with the thoughts of those across the country and across the world who have been following what's been going on in Wisconsin and understand what might just be won here.
All of that doesn't fit into a box, and it never could.  You can't carry one of them into the Government Accountability Board offices and not feel overwhelmed as these things come bursting out.  The universe simply doesn't allow it.
I did not collect the most signatures; I did not spend the most time of anyone on the recall; I neither suffered the most nor sacrificed the most.  Nonetheless, I had the opportunity to represent those who had put something into it.
So I carried a box.
Ken Bosteder
Ken Bosteder, Fort Atkinson, Jefferson County
What did carrying a Recall Box mean to me? I am a small Union President, maybe just a title, yes, but to me it is way more than that! I represent our small 26 member group and with passion. When the talk about union busting first came up, I called all 33 Senate offices voicing my concern. I went to the Capitol with people from all walks of life. I remember taking the bus from Dick's Sporting Goods to the Capitol, always saying to everybody on board "Thank You". We showed the world what a group of walked on, pissed off Badgers look like! We were made stronger when we had to deal with stupidity from Walker and his Koch brother call, [Senator Glenn] Grothman calling us hippies and slobs, and the Teabaggers trying to engage us but to no avail. We took a lot of shit and we knew we would have our chance.
Ken Bosteder
When the chance to go out and gather signatures came, I was ready and willing. I started early working with Julie Wells, Sarah Hammer, Erin Sievert and many more. I was carrying 3 petition sheets: Walker, Kleefisch and Fitz. We were rolling with the gov and step gov - lol.  But then I met Lori Compas. She needed plenty of help because Fitz was the only true grassroots effort and I was very proud to be a part of it. We had a team meeting 3 days before Christmas and I sent an email out pleading with people to help out the cause. Shortly after that I met Kim Dunham and from that point on we were rolling. Trailer parks, apartments, door to door. Almost every night we went out gathering volunteers as we went. I like to think that Kim and I were a catalyst to the cause but it was a true group effort. 

When the day came to turn in petitions, mother nature threw us a curve ball, but after all this is Wisconsin and it's just snow. Lori called out to Kim and I to come up to the front and said "I want you guys to carry the boxes with me." I was never so proud!
Randy Bryce, Milwaukee Ironworkers
Walker announced he "dropped a bomb" on Unions. I keep saying that he should have done a little research on how Union-built structures are a lot more reliable than those built without Union Labor. There's a reason why Unions exist. Scooter is about to find that out. You need more than "a bomb" to take out a Union-built bomb shelter. We've been protecting Workers for over one-hundred years. (Ironworkers Local 8 has been around for 110 years).
Randy "Milwaukee Ironworkers" Bryce
Although I belong to a Private Union (Ironworkers), I've been asked why we got involved in an attack on Public Unions. The answer is extremely simple. When the Army gets attacked - the Marines, Navy, and Air Force don't sit by and watch.
The box contained a Union-made bomb.It represented all of the built-up anger at the lies that Walker has been repeatedly telling. I've been taken away from my family this past year for quite a bit more time than I ever would have imagined. If I'm going to fight back after a sneak attack like the one Walker used, I demand to be on the front lines.
Thankfully, I wasn't standing there alone.  
The box contained time. It contained rage tempered by peace with a healthy dose of optimism  in knowing that our day would come. It was undeniable proof that one million others stood next to me in this War (a War none of us ever asked for, but, a War we WILL win).
The box was a trophy for winning the biggest battle that Wisconsin had won up to that point. It represented a change in how Wisconsin was going to be. The tide is turning - that box was evidence. It had righteous anger oozing out of the handles.
That box contained tools for building, not for demolition.
My box wasn't my box. I just was the humblest of delivery people that day. 
You got that right... Solidarity (from the proudest Ironworker to ever carry a box) 

Mary Bucheger
Mary Bucheger,  Mellen, Wisconsin, Ashland County
I am very proud to have been selected to be one of the few people to carry a box. This box I carried and all the boxes are not just any boxes.  [I carried a box because] Scott Walker looks like, and is, an untrustworthy official. As County Executive, he privatized Milwaukee county facilities and jobs.  He killed collective bargaining and wants to raid the state pension fund. He's a puppet for the Koch brothers and Big Money.  We carried a message that is loud and powerful! The power of every name on those petitions tells what Wisconsin means to me, and everyone who place their names one one, and all the volunteers and supporters who stood int he wind and snow to deliver them. We are proud to have been a part of history.

Sheila Danielson, United Wisconsin Jackson County Coordinator.  Sheila's story was first posted online at Badger Democracy - be sure to bookmark that blog if you haven't already!
What It Meant to Carry a Box

Oh my, what it meant to carry a box?  You would think the words and feelings would come easy.  Right?  Happy?  Yes.  Excited?  Yes?   Proud?  Yes!  I was elated when I heard we had 1,000,000 + Signatures.  And yes, I was making history.  But still those words didn’t cover what I was feeling? 
Sheila Danielson
Aah, then I realized what I felt.  Responsibility!  People trusted me with their future. Here I am carrying a box filled with signatures representing people’s dreams, their despair over how their lives have changed because of job loss and loss of job benefits, their loss of health insurance, their loss of long-time friendships, their loss of family relationships, loss of security, loss of their homes.
And their fear.  And on top of that, Wisconsin and the world were watching me!!  No wonder the box was so heavy!! 
And then came anger because we shouldn’t have to be having a recall.  Wisconsin’s constitution, Article 1, under the Declaration or Rights  tells us that we have certain inherent rights, and among those is/are? life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   For me, the word that stands out in Article I is liberty, which means freedom from a government or political system in which the ruler exercises absolute power; liberty means the power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, according to choice, and these liberties are being taken away from us.  
Then I realized those signatures represent much more than that.  They represent hope, happiness, security, liberty, and most importantly – power.  We are no longer powerless!!   We are taking our power back!!!  1,000,000 + Wisconsinites are no longer powerless!!  We have started the process of taking our power back. 
Now my box wasn’t so heavy anymore!!!!

Paul DeMain, Sawyer County
Paul DeMain
It has taken me some time to write this about my experience and feelings carrying that box of magic into the Government Accountability Board office because it will be a day we all remember very deeply not as a scar, but a new start. 

I still think of it everyday as we go about the process of watching the Recall signatures being verified and continue a vigilant gasp for each day as our Governor and a handful of cronies use slight of hand to attack working people, women, students, the poor, children, jeopardizing health care and risking the pristine environment in order to please their corporate political contributors. It is just not a broken Bill, nor a broken process -- it is a broken Governor and leader who should never ever be allowed the seat of power again.

My son recorded much of the trek from the Terrace over to the GAB office. He held a Laptop computer all the way with another associate broadcasting the event "Live." Sometime on that day, he became a proud "union thug" according to the button he placed on his coat. He will never forget seeing his father on the streets, walking buildings with clipboard and petitions, nor the day he wore his Oneida Nation tribal clan colors of bright red and black and footprints of a bear on his hat, as he went by smiling on the way into the GAB office of Madison, Wisconsin.

We were part of the crowd from Northern Wisconsin who at one time were written off by some as being from "way up there" somewhere. We not only did our job, we stood in snow, rain, sleet and cold and brought in more then the required 25%, then 35% then something above 45% and almost reaching half of the number of people who voted in the last election. We not only were from way up there, we stood with teachers, firemen, Indians, police officers, women, students and everyday workers while rich Republicans with Walker bumper stickers came riding by and flipped us a few rare birds.

When I reached for that box, it seemed like Christmas, like graduation, like a celebration with no end. I grabbed the box and hoisted it above my head with a cheer, and as I walked up the sidewalk representing the former purple county of Sawyer, it seemed like the world that had been looking in on the growing people power of Wisconsin, became suddenly quiet,  and in slow motion of moments and memories swirled around and around. Only the cheers from my fellow Wisconsinites, lining the corridor and the cheers of our accomplishment brought me back to reality and the realization, the opening of our next greatest challenge, the election of a new Governor.

Kimberly Dys, Jefferson County. Kimberly was one of the citizens of Senate District 13 who turned in signatures for the recall of Senator Scott Fitzgerald.

Kimberly Dys (right) with Lori Compas and Ken Bosteder
We Love Wisconsin

Ken carried 'We', Lori carried 'Love' and I carried 'Wisconsin' on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

This was at the end of collecting petitions on the Recall Trail. At the beginning I carried 3 petitions - the petitions to recall Scott Walker, to recall Rebecca Kleefisch and to recall Scott Fitzgerald. I wasn't  worried that we would collect more than enough signatures to Recall Walker, but, I had doubts about Kleefisch and Fitzgerald. Doubts because I saw too many people want to only sign to recall Walker (they didn't know enough about Kleefisch to sign) or only had time to sign one petition. Too many circulators didn't know how to talk about Kleefisch and very few people even knew that Fitzgerald was being recalled or whom could sign for him (there was a map and town list on the back of each petition). Other Senate recall districts didn't carry Kleefisch in the beginning because it was thought that it would be too difficult for the canvassers to juggle. So, yes, I was worried about Kleefisch.

Kimberly Dys delivering Wisconsin to the GAB.
In the beginning, I tallied my count of all signatures collected. However, very quickly, the only real numbers that counted for me were the collected signatures to Recall Fitzgerald. (I continued to collect sigs to recall Walker / Kleefisch, but, I also knew that the rest of the state was working hard to recall them, too. Thank you, Wisconsin!) Again, in the beginning, I offered the recall Walker petition because that is what people were looking for. But because people didn't know about the effort to Recall Fitzgerald, I started with asking them if they were eligible to recall him. And then, when I was in-district it became the default first petition to offer. After the first few weeks, people were specifically looking for the Fitz petition because they had already signed the Walker / Kleefisch petitions. This happened more often as time ticked down to January 14th. In the beginning, there was no real plan other than to stand out in groups and wait for people to sign. I did that for a while, in Rock County. But, I wanted to collect in my home district, the unlucky 13th, and get 3 signatures for one knock or stop. I started knocking on doors - going up one side of a block and then down the other 8, 9, 10 blocks at a time. Lori had posted map sections to claim and canvass and I signed up. But it wasn't enough. Ken wrote a letter pleading with people to do more, wanting more people to gather signatures. I saw the letter and I thought that people would volunteer if we gave them a plan of action. People wanted to help, but, didn't know how or where. I thought about the easy places to canvas - apartment buildings - and started identifying all of the apartment buildings in Fort Atkinson. I also thought that the most respectful time people would be home is between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. The 3 of us posted a week of canvas areas and like-minded volunteers showed up to knock on doors. And we never stopped.

Now, as we wait for the G.A.B. to slowly work through the recalls; as we wait for the inevitable challenges and dirty tricks of the Republicans, I walk down the street -any street - and my memory tells me, 'That house didn't answer, they weren't home, they slammed the door in my face, they quietly refused to sign, that house already signed, they didn't answer although the light was on and you could see people inside, that one didn't answer and then, a house where the occupants eagerly signed. On each street, I remember the evening and with whom I was canvassing (sometimes alone). I remember the cautious anticipation wondering which party-defining response I would receive as I rang doorbells or opened the screen door to knock on the solid door and then waited for an answer. Oftentimes, a second knock.

There were times that it felt futile - this canvassing in a red (conservative) district - but, the drive to knock on each door to offer others a chance to participate in their, in our, democracy was too precious to let pass. Even when I was ordered off property, asked 'Can I ask you a question?' (which, in their mind, is meant to be engaging and in actuality was code that they were going to yell, swear, insult and ridicule), flipped off, told to get a job, threatened with the police being called on me for knocking on their door, detained while one person was falsely signing the petition just so the other could yell at me, stopped by a fake supporter of the recall and given fake addresses to run down - even then, I was looking for the beacons of signers in the darkness. Those wonderful friendly, peaceful people whom were so happy that someone came to their door because they weren't able to get out or find a circulator. Those initially cautious, warm people that shared exactly how I felt about the hijacking of our state. We often didn't want to part because it was refreshing and uplifting to talk with others whom shared similar ideals. Yet, the urgency pressed on us - and we parted after many thank you's and hugs and smiles - to knock on as many doors as possible. It was winter and even though the winter was mild, it was still hovering around freezing and night time. Dressed in bulky layers and moving, one became warm quickly. If that wasn't enough, we joked about the weather - 'Walker thinks that the weather will deter us, but, he's obviously not from Wisconsin'. Neither are the Fitzgeralds, for that matter. As long as I had my earmuffs, I was warm. (Even in the pictures below, I am wearing them.) As long as I had camaraderie, I was warm. As long as I had the sense of participating in a democracy, I was warm. I was swept up in the excitement carrying my box. It was a whirlwind and I don't remember much other than seeing everyone. But I do remember every day of knocking on doors to get just one more signature.

Sarah Niemann Hammer, Fort Atkinson.
Sarah Niemann Hammer
"My Box"
I read a blog that a fellow volunteer wrote recently titled, "So I carried a box."  It was about his thoughts and feelings delivering his recall petition box to the Government Accountability Board on January 17th, 2012.  It made me think... about a lot of things.  My first thought, being the "damn hippie" that I am was the Grateful Dead song, 'Box of Rain'... one of my many favorites.  If you're not familiar with the song, some of the lyrics go like this:

                                        *It's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
or leave it if you dare
But it's just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
and a short time to be there* 
The song was written by Phil Lesh when his father was dying... which may seem depressing while I'm talking of such a joyous occasion of the day we recalled the governor, lt. governor, senate majority leader, and three additional republican senators... but actually it's a very peaceful song.  If you listen to the song and think of a box of rain being the world we live in, then it's as though the song is telling you not to worry about the sadness because there is tragedy in the world no matter who you are, and you are only alive for a short time... life is for the living, enjoy it, and be happy!

The day I carried my box I thought about that first, because the thoughts that followed weren't as happy for me.  The things that the petitions in this box represented.  The nearly 2 million signatures for these six corrupt leaders we had collected and were finally turning in.  The signatures of people who had lost their jobs... 9,700 private sector jobs lost in our state reported in October, the highest loss in the whole nation.  The signatures of people who were already struggling so much so that they could not afford private health insurance and had state insurance and right before the holidays found out that they would no longer have any health care coverage... nearly 65,000 people including among them their almost 30,000 children.  I thought about the teachers, who in my opinion, have never been paid enough to deal with what they do... goddess bless them, I use to be a substitute and it is not a job I could do full-time... it takes a special person to teach and I can admit I'm not that special.  I thought about the public workers who wouldn't have a right to collectively bargain for safe working conditions... factories, mines, eventually police and firefighters... not all union jobs are in a classroom.  I thought about the elderly people and college students who would now have an even harder time voting having to obtain an ID card and jump through hoops if they've moved less than 28 days before an election.  I thought about the tax breaks to corporations and the Koch brothers, and how lowering the standards for air and water quality regulation to make it easier for these rich criminal bastards to rape our state of resources and leave it polluted and destined for tragedy would bring poverty and disease to my children's futures.

I smiled when I carried my box because I had to have faith that good will prevail.

So I, too, carried a box... mine was box #4.  I picked this box specifically as it has been my lucky number since the days of grade school sports, and is the month I was born.  I believe we project our own futures... that the energy we send out to the universe makes things happen.  I may not be a dedicated organized religion person, but I am definitely as spiritual as they come.  I believe the energy I sent out that day was as positive as it could be so that it will come back ten-fold and bring with it the real change and the good that the people of this great state I was born and raised in need.  A place my children can get a good education, one day a good job, and be healthy as well.

Everything I did to be able to carry that box, I did for the future of my children.

Phil Jacobs, member of the Executive Board of the Kenosha Professional Firefighter's union, IAFF Local 414. Phil shared his feelings about the experience of carrying a box with the members of his union:

Brothers and Sisters of Local 414,

I would just like to share with you a perspective from the event that took place yesterday in Madison.

Phil Jacobs
I was privileged to be the representative from Kenosha County to personally deliver the signatures to the Government Accountability Board. Many of you were instrumental in Circulating these petitions and obtaining the signatures, Most of our membership signed the petitions. Accompanied by Rick Jurvis and Ricardo LeBron, we had an experience that was unlike the other other visits we had made in the past year to the state capital. The crowd was easily the smallest gathering we have seen in the past year. I would estimate then initial daytime number at around 250 people or so, including the 72 county representatives.

Despite the reduced size of this crowd, the level of passion and determination was the same as what the groups had last winter. A year of politics, all of the events that took place, our Senators leaving the state, recall elections that reclaimed two senate seats and all of the divisiveness that had gripped our state has clearly changed many of our lives.

Delivering the box of signatures was actually a very simple, almost mundane task in itself except, of course there was incredible security around this act, Incredible amounts of effort on the part of over 30,000 volunteers resulted in the record number of signatures being obtained. Of course there was an incredible media presence, this has turned out to be the largest recall effort in the history of the United States.

What was absent of course, was any sign of a Walker supporter or counter protest of any sort. I'm sure some of that will surface elsewhere in upcoming days. And there can be little doubt that when they do surface there will be attention on them as well.

As the boxes were carefully inventoried and cataloged inside the GAB office everyone involved was obviously aware that each cardboard box held more than just petitions and signatures, inside of each container was our voices, our concerns and our anger that has arisen over Governor Walker's radical agenda and the attacks on our rights. Personally I felt a sense of "healing" taking place as yesterday we were finally able take action to fight back after our Governor (in his words) decided to "drop the bomb" on us and our union brothers and sisters here in Wisconsin.

As the number of signatures was announced, the news had a stunning effect on the crowd, and as it was now later in the day and despite the weather, the crowd grew to a much larger size. It was made incredibly obvious to everyone now that the people of Wisconsin are calling for a change. Governor Walker was in Manhattan yesterday doing some fundraising to fight us back, but our votes are here in Wisconsin.
Also made obvious yesterday -- Walker's reforms are not working and We, the People are not waiting. Numerous candidates were already appearing and campaigning will begin very quickly. No doubt there will be a Democratic Primary in this race.

Our fight and path to reclaiming our rights will not end in the office of the GAB. We must maintain the level of commitment and energy that we have held since last January and see this through. Our contributions and efforts to date have been noticed around the state.

The thanks and appreciation I received from our politicians and fellow members of the labor community are in response to all of your continued hard work and talent in the political arena we have found ourselves in. You should all feel a sense of pride in what we have accomplished together.

I ask that you keep an open mind and continue to pay close attention as this process goes on and remain involved. I believe we will be playing a continued significant role in the days ahead. We were there on the first day, on the front line in 2011 in the fight to defend our rights and I am confident that we will display the courage and resolve to remain on scene as long as needed.

In Solidarity,
Phil Jacobs

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson, Spooner, Wisconsin
To carry a box of recall petitions was jubilation I cannot describe.  For the past 11 months people across Wisconsin stood on corners in small towns as some of us could not make the trip to Madison.   We stood as a state support of the Fourteen Senators who left in order to preserve Democracy!
To gather the signatures strengthened my believe that we will again see democracy, and the over one million signatures shows we are not wrong.
On the morning of January 17th the news stations in America were running stories of it being the 70th Birthday of Muhammad Ali.  I told my wife Terri that I was going to carry my box over my head, just as Ali would celebrate with his belt after winning a fight.
After receiving my box, I celebrated as I should in respect to Ali, a patriot who went to jail protesting his government decisions at the time.   I had no intentions of going to jail as he did, but I will exercise my right as a citizen to restore democracy.
The next day while watching television I saw myself on the Ed Schultz Show, with my photo on the cover of the Wisconsin State Journal holding the box over my head. 
Thank you to my Senator Bob Jauch for my civics lesson over this past year, we have to work to make Wisconsin a great state again.

Tanya Lohr, Slinger, Wisconsin
I Carried a Box. 
It seems like such a strange statement to use when describing a defining moment in one’s life, and yet for me, that’s exactly what this statement is.
Tanya Lohr

My initial reaction to the honor of carrying a box of recall petitions into the Government Accountability Board on January 17th was pure excitement. I couldn’t wait to turn in the signatures we had all worked so hard to collect.

That feeling of exhilaration continued throughout that evening as we celebrated the victory of over 1 million signatures collected. We laughed as we hugged and congratulated each other on a job well done.

But now that the parties are over, I find myself quite reflective as my thoughts keep wandering to the experience of carrying that box.

I think about walking down that corridor of people who were holding hands with one another so that our path to the GAB was clear of obstacles. As I walked down that path, I caught glimpses of the faces of people I had met in the last 11 months of my life. I had never met them before February 11th, but I was now connected to them for the rest of my life. They yelled “Thank YOU” as I passed by, but all I kept thinking was “Thank YOU for helping me find my way.”

I think about the people whose signatures I carried into the GAB. Even though I don’t know their names, or their stories, I feel connected to them forever. I carried their hopes, their dreams, their struggles, and their fears. What will happen to them after these boxes are opened, and their signatures are counted? What will it take to get their lives back on track and what else can I do to help make that happen?

I think about the sacrifices that were made to collect the signatures I carried. How many broken friendships and severed family ties are inside? And what did the volunteers have to give up in order to successfully circulate each of these petitions?

When I was first selected for this task, I thought I was just carrying a box. Now I realize that I was carrying the future of a state currently entrenched in its own cold war. I was told the box would be heavy. Little did I know how heavy it would really be.

I carried a box.

Alan Manson, Rusk County.  Alan described his experience carrying a box in this edition of the Rusk Dems Newsletter --  January  2012 
From the Chair.   Thanks a million!  That's one of the signs I saw last Tuesday when I was in Madison. I was there to help carry 180 bankers boxes of signed petitions from a U-Haul truck on East Washington Avenue into the GAB office one block off the Capitol Square. We turned in a million signatures to recall Governor Walker, and 850,000 to recall Lt. Governor Kleefisch.  I do not know if the box I carried had Galloway signatures; I hope they did. The boxes had been carefully sealed at the Democratic Party headquarters with (what else?) blue duct tape. But I do know that over 20,000 citizens signed to have Galloway recalled, and so that in addition to having a chance to replace Walker and Kleefisch, we have a chance in Rusk to get a new State Senator.
It is a challenge for me to write effectively about the gathering and delivery of recall petitions. I get so many images from a whole variety of activities over the past two months. I see Joe Baye and Earl Monnier, with Joe Perlongo, at the top of the bridge in the cold early mornings.  I recall the smiles and waves and thumbs up (with only a few thumbs down or worse) gestures of people coming and going by the Wal-Mart parking lot, where Jim Kurz, Brian Groothousen and others picked up over 150 signatures in 15 hours.
Colleen and I opened our home in town on Highway 8 to signers and we got five to ten a day during the first weeks, with the numbers dropping off in late December.  We met the nicest people, of all ages and backgrounds, from all parts of the County and beyond, but including nearby neighbors we had never met before. Then, in the last weeks, many people who stopped came not to sign (they had already done so) but rather to turn in petitions they had gathered. We got more signatures in these last weeks than at any other time. 
We used to take down the SIGN HERE--RECALL WALKER--SIGN HERE signs in front of our home each night, and there were holes in the lawn where be would set them up each morning. But then it got so warm the holes filled with water from the melting snow, and then re-froze; so we hammered the signs in and left them up night and day for the last two weeks. They now say 1400 SIGNED--THANK YOU--1400 SIGNED.  And 1400 did sign, including some visitors from other counties passing through, but not including some from Rusk who signed in Rice Lake or Chippewa Falls or Eau Claire. We got over 1400 for Walker, over 1200 for Kleefisch, and over 1000 for Galloway. We had Recall Walker buttons and bumper stickers and lawn signs by the signing table in our front hall, and over the weeks, one by one, they were taken to be displayed. There were also buttons that said "I Was There" with a graphic of the Madison Capitol demonstrators last spring.
I recall getting phone calls from some who were housebound and wanted to sign, and then going to their homes and meeting them. One man who stopped at our home and signed asked if I would go to the nursing home so his mother could sign; I did and although she signed with an "x" because of arthritis, she got me to bring her an "I Was There" button. When I asked if she had been to Madison during the demonstrations, she smiled and said; "I was there in spirit." 
I got to drive to the truck-stop near Prentice each Friday to deliver the week's harvest of signatures, after Charmaine Johnson carefully recorded all the names gathered here. I called some who had signed and sent back Galloway petitions they had received in the mail, but who had failed to fill the petitions out completely (I picked up these in Prentice when delivery the week's batch).  Some were embarrassed at their oversight, but all wanted to do it right to avoid challenges, and so arrangements were made for them to stop by Colleen's, or Ethyl Rybarczyk's in Hawkins, or to have someone drop by their homes.
In Madison there was a procession from the Monona Terrace Center to and around the square and then to the GAB (Government Accountability Board) office. As several hundred of us walked with signs and good spirits, vehicles would pass and show support by honking.  Several Madison city buses honked, and their drivers waved. If you listened carefully, you could hear the beat of the chant THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE in some of the more tuneful horn blowers. And just as the boxes were being unloaded, a giant red hook-and-ladder fire truck drove by, skillfully and gently tooting its non-emergency horn. Public employees--you gotta love'em.
There was a strong wind blowing, and it was cold, but the crowds warmed us all, as did the hand-warmers the organizers had given us at lunch. While standing in the crowd by the U-Haul truck, waiting for a box, I saw Al Holle from Chippewa County and Paul Johnson from Washburn and Paul Demain from Sawyer. While carrying the box into the GAB, there were dozens of cameras pointed at me, and I received many pats on the back and arms, and cheers, as I went from the truck to the front door. It was when being literally touched by the crowd that I felt most challenged on how to convey that good feeling to all here in Rusk who helped gather the signatures. So I will end this by repeating what has seemingly become a wonderful catch-phrase or mantra of this whole movement, from the crowd of 100,000 in Madison who chanted it as the 14 Democratic Senators returned to the Capitol, to so many of those who stopped by our home in Ladysmith:   Thank You. Thank you for all you are doing to help our state regain its balance and dignity. Thank You.                          
Al Manson,  Chair--Rusk Dems

Joe O'Brien, Lake Delton, Sauk County
What carrying a box of petitions meant to me
It felt like a different world, stepping out from the terrace on the way to G.A.B.
I had shed all hostility toward me and uncertainty that had dogged me as I collected for 55 days in the cold.n Today was different; I didn't feel the cold, I felt thousands of people around me cheering us like heroes, I had to fight back the emotions as we marched on. This was a turning point, we had broken the barrier and exceeded all expectations and came together to fulfill our destiny and our promise to the people of Wisconsin. Today was different, It would be the best day I had in a long time. I felt the electricity, The crisp air was clean and the sight of the capitol made me proud and in awe of the event. People waved from high open windows around the square, cheering us on. I never expected to feel the warmth and thanks of so many people that surrounded us, all the way. These people were thoughtful, kind, intelligent people. Hard working people that wanted to make a difference. I was almost the last person to carry, I felt that the ladies and others should go first, I could stand as long as it took. Luckily, I finally got to go. My heart pounded, I was held back as I tried to take off too fast.  I tossed the box on my shoulder and high fived everyone who stuck out their hand all the way. I didn't even realize it at the time but on seeing the video I had the biggest smile when I came through, I was smiling all the way. We had made it, it was a good day, a damn good day. How can I describe January the 17th ? Everyone was filled with hope, their faces, their voices were filled with hope.  

Gaylord Oppegard
Gaylord Oppegard, Jackson County
Having the honor of carrying a box to recall Scott Walker was absolutely an incredible high!  Looking back on it now, there were really 2 different phases involved with this. Phase 1 was the time prior to and during the actual box carrying.  Phase 2 was afterward when the reality of it all finally had a chance to sink it.
Phase 1 began as we were getting our instructions during the lunch time; what we were about to do started to really hit home.  We received instructions as to our walking route from Monona Terrace, past the Capitol, and on to the site where the truck was parked with the petitions.  That walk was exciting and filled with song, chants and happiness, and horn honks, especially at the end when we spotted the truck where the petitions were being stored and awaiting us, the folks who had the honor to move them in GAB building.
As we waited in line to get our box, the excitement mounted!  Everyone was cheering!  A security corridor (of volunteers) was formed for us to go through (about 75 yards.)  As I received my box (#38) I waited for Sheila to get her box-we paused briefly for our picture to taken together.  As I walked out ahead (they spaced us out so that they could properly record the boxes as they were place in the GAB office) I suddenly became “completely involved.”  People thanked me, they patted me on the back, I got hugs (which I could not return), people thanked me over and over, and over again!  I thanked them!  I shouted “this is the right thing to do, and this sure gives me a great feeling!  (I am real excited right then! As you might guess.)  (Sheila says I must tell this next part!) I then climbed to the top of the steps, took a few more steps, which put me into the GAB office, (which I did not quite realize) and with great volume hollered, “yes, this is real and it feels so good!”)  I looked ahead and saw 4-5 police with hands near their side arms, and not much in the way of smiles.  I felt like the kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar-and knew I should say something.  Had to say something really thoughtful, so, very quietly I said, “Oh, I suppose I shouldn’t talk so loudly in here.”  I brought some smiles to the officers faces! 
The second phase of this petition carrying honor came later after I had time to reflect on what this all means, and to think about who I had the honor of representing.  I want to thank Sheila for her part in this whole process. I thought about the many great volunteers back in Jackson County who I was really representing.  My only regret is that you were not able to experience what we experienced in the joy of delivering a box containing 1000’s of signatures.
 I thought of Pat, I thought of our daughter Laura, who lives in Madison and has played such a big part in this whole protest movement.  Also, I thought about our other daughter Kathy and her husband and our grandson Bjorn and his soon to to be born sibling.  He and his brother/sister are the future. This whole process is about our future and how we need to exercise our rights and get our future back where it belongs-in our hands! And in the hands of those who come after us!
I will summarize this with one quick story about Jackson Co.  I had numerous people come up to me, check my Jackson Co. sign and say, “Yea-a-a-a Jackson County”, in a loud voice.  Then tilt their head back and say, “Where is Jackson Co.?”  I was tempted to say, “it’s just up north of Cataract a few miles, just north of Cataract”.

Mary Beth Panyard Schultz, Iowa County
Mary Beth Panyard Schultz
When I was informed that United Wisconsin County Coordinators would be box carriers, I knew this was an honorable role in the recall process. My husband and I carried boxes 9 and 10 (Walker) and 34 and 35 (Kleefisch). When we were carrying the boxes from the  U-Haul truck into the GAB, all I could think of was all the experiences and conditions the circulators endured while gathering these signatures.  I  began to think of all the people these signatures represented and I may never know all of their stories, but I knew, I, Mary Beth Panyard Schultz, was responsible for delivering their dreams of a better future for our state. I  knew I was contributing to a historical event by participating in the delivery of the  recall petitions of our Governor and Lieutenant Governor.  I am proud to have participated in this  honorable role, and I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life. I am proud to acknowledge I am the United Wisconsin Coordinator for Iowa County Wisconsin.  
Matt Powers
Matt Powers
I was one of the ones fortunate enough to carry a box of recall petitions to the GAB last week, an honor to be truthful, I would rather not of had. You see, I miss my state the way it used to be. Remember what it was like before Scott Walker divided us to a point where we are hesitant to reveal our positions? Everything changed last February in a profound and lasting way. We revealed as a society, some of the ugliest aspects of human nature. When confronted with, what in any other society but ours would be a minor setback, a portion of us choose to attack those with the least ability to defend themselves and the smallest voice. To blame them for things so clearly beyond their control and to punish them. I see Scott Walker as little more than a bully. Picking on the little, the weak, and then looking to his “friends” to reassure him he is not the creep that he surely must think himself.
I was never big enough or fast enough to “run out of the tunnel” in a championship game or shoot the game winning shot at the buzzer, so I do not know how that feels. But I do know what it feels like to carry a box of petitions into the GAB to recall Scott Walker and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The culmination of our combined efforts has not only forced a recall election but forced us all to examine ourselves, our society and what we as a people want moving forward and in a way, perhaps has done us a service in that regard. Thank all of you. I am humbled.

Roberta Retrum
Roberta Retrum, Eagle River
 It's been a week now since I sat on my corner in Eagle River collecting signatures to RECALL WALKER!!!   On Tuesday, January 17, 2012, I was privileged to carry not 1, but 2 boxes of signatures into the GAB.  All I could think about the whole time was the stories of the people who stopped to sign my petition.   There happens to be 897 of them that I could tell.  I wish those stories could be attached to those names I turned in.  Other people need to hear the kinds of things that Walker and company have done to the fine people of this state.......the state I was born in......the state I have always lived in......the state I will probably die in......the state I love.
I love this state, and the people in it so much, I spent countless hours, sitting on a corner, in all kinds of weather, in my portable office, the infamous RecallWalkerMobile.   I sat there hour after hour, day after day, so that others who felt as strongly as I did about the recall, could have the opportunity to sign their names on a petition to do just that.  I know there are still people out there who didn't get the chance to sign, too.   And at some point, I'm sure I will hear their stories, too.
Roberta Retrum's legendary RecallWalkerMobile
I was there when the truck arrived.  I got to see inside, and get a picture of all the boxes that held the 1.9 MILLION signatures of the people who signed to recall 1 governor, 1 lt. governor, and 3 State Senators.  I got to carry BOX #2, behind Julie Wells, the filer.  I got to represent my county(Vilas) in turning in those signatures to the GAB.  I got to represent ALL the people of this state.   And after I turned in that box, I got to do it again......there were that many boxes.   I got to make HISTORY.

Lou Anne Roby
Lou Anne Roby, Mondovi, Buffalo County
My little box of petitions was filled with memories. There was the little old lady who drove around the block twice and toddled over to my recall site. It was fifteen degrees and the wind was blowing. The lady was bent over and her ungloved fingers were gnarled. I worried and urged her back into her vehicle for petition signing - where she would be safe from the ice and cold. She would not budge. She was proud to stand on the street corner and sign the recall papers. She lived way out in the country and didn’t know if the recall would reach her. She would not miss her chance. She was delighted to see the recall effort reach our little town.
Then there were the kind people who brought me foot warmers and a hot cup of coffee. I knew, even here in my small corner that I was not alone. I knocked on a few doors. Most people had their good small town manners until the last few weeks. Unfortunately the deluge of “glory be to Walker” commercials seemed to take care of that.
As the end drew near there were the people who flipped me off or drove by multiple times so that they could say silly things like "Walker for president." They are in my box, too. Mostly the flippers seemed very puzzled by my waves and smiles, but I value their free speech, too. I would have welcomed a civil conversation. I am a small woman – a mother and a grandmother. I am hardly a threat with a few pieces of paper and a pen that won’t freeze. 
Some very important people stopped to say things like "slug" and "get out of town." I guess money doesn’t buy good manners. Nevertheless, I continued to stand on my little recall corner. Too often the world seems so very distant in our little town. I was bringing the world home. Like it or not, life as we know it is changing. I want my neighbors to have input and remember they are a part of this change. Too often what happens in Madison seems like a world away from us.
I had brave wonderful people stand by my side. It isn’t easy to find those who are willing to live with the consequences. In a small town it can be like a family fight, but good people stood proudly by my side to do what is right.
Recall was almost all good for me – except for one aspect. See I am a multigenerational military dependent. Whether or not I have agreed with the wars our country has fought, it has been my family who served loyally and faithfully – no matter who was commander in chief. I recall President Johnson coming to Camp Pendleton to speak to the troops during the Vietnam War. I know how my young uncle and father were forever changed by the experience. Too many nights I prayed that my father would come home alive, not knowing it would be many years before I once again saw the man I knew as a child. It was the life my family knew. I also know that whether or not our military and families agree with the nation’s politics – they serve and they sacrifice deeply.
So this too is in the box because there were those who would deny me my constitutional right to free speech. How dare they? We will all disagree at times and sometimes quite strongly, but how dare anyone deny my right to free speech? How dare anyone interfere with my right to vote? So I carried my little box with great pride. I thought of my late father that day and of all the times he’d lived and all that had been endured. What I could do was small in comparison, but a great honor for me.

Tanya Schamens, Monroe County
Tanya Schamens
The Box
On a cold wintery day in January I got to carry a box. I was excited to carry that box and even more excited to when I got to help carry in the 2nd box. That box was the last box.

The first box represented my county, Monroe County. It represented all the teachers, nurses, county workers, etc. who took home petitions on a wonderful November day to have their family sign the petitions. It represented the fact that they did not stop with that petition. They ran copies off themselves, downloaded new ones off the internet, or they stopped in the office in Sparta or LaCrosse to pick up more. These people along with all of us coordinators kept working to the end.  
My first box represented the people that I have gotten to talk to during those 60 days. It represented the friendships made with other volunteers. It represented more than what was on those pieces of paper.

My 2nd box, the last box, represented a whole lot more. It represented the end of all our hard work. I carried it in with Richland County’s rep, which I met during the recall and worked a great deal with. The fact that we carried it in together represents, to me, the forged friendships of all of us. It represents the fact that we all had to work together to get the job done. It represented the fact that because we did work together we surpassed our goals.

I was so proud that day of the work done by all the people that volunteered. There are people that volunteered that we do not know. They did not stop in the offices. They did not stop and see us on the street corners in the cold and rain. That box was for their work that no one knows about. There may be 30,000 known volunteers but I would garner that there were at least 5,000 out there who did not realize that they were helping us out by posting our whereabouts on Facebook or telling their neighbors where to sign or pick up petitions. The people who brought their parents and grandparents in to sign. I was representing all those people in that last box because they do not know how much they helped out the cause and brought us over the top.

Lisa Sheldon, Rock County
Lisa Sheldon
On 12/31/2011 at about 9am in the morning, I slipped on ice and broke my ankle.  The first thing I said when the Dr. told me my ankle was broken was "what am I going to do the 17th?"  Honest! I was not going to let a broken ankle and surgery on it stop me from being there when the petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker were delivered to the Government Accountability Board.
I have been involved with the protests since February 11th, 2011.  That was the first day I drove up to Madison to "see" the protests. I was a child growing up in the 60s and early 70s protests of the Vietnam war.  I saw the stories on the news.  Scenes of this new uprising in Madison made me want to go see it.  I didn't vote for Walker, I support Labor so I had to go. 
In a matter of a few minutes I was walking around the Capitol chanting "This is what Democracy looks like" and "Hey Hey Ho Ho Scott Walker has got to go".  It was the coolest thing. It also happened to be the day the 14 Senators left the state to filibuster the budget bill.   I was posting pictures to Facebook via my cell phone. I couldn't wait to get home to tell my family about it.  Then the speakers started, Mary Bell from WEAC, Phil Neuenfeldt from the AFL-CIO, John Nichols, and then the Fireman's Bag Pipe band came walking up state street in support with hundreds of firefighters behind them.  Even though they hadn't been targeted by Walker's budget cuts, they came in solidarity to support those that were being attacked.
The following week my husband and daughter went with me to Madison.  They also got to see the excitement, the solidarity, and the fear of what this destructive budget legislation will do. Facebook turning into a news outlet for breaking stories coming out of the Capitol, the heated discussions between friends and family and the rallying of the like minded people.
On March 15, 2011 my friend Vivian and I attended an organizational meeting for United Wisconsin and volunteered to be the Rock County organizer for United Wisconsin during the recall effort.  After months of pledge gathering and protesting the recall finally happened on November 15th and for almost 60 days I helped in that effort.  Until I broke my ankle - 15 days before the end of the petition drive. 

On January 17th, the first day I had been out of the house, arrangements were made by United Wisconsin and the WI Democratic Party to allow me to participate.  It was the experience of a lifetime and without sounding corny, I was a part of history that I can tell my grandchildren.  My daughter pushed my wheelchair into the GAB office Tuesday, a box of petitions on her lap.
Later, the rally at the Monona Terrace was the culmination of that day.  A few thousand people sharing in the celebration of a task that at times seemed impossible.  With more than 1 million signatures calling for an election to recall the governor had been turned in and enough for 4 Republican Senators, it was a great day for Wisconsin.  I even ran into my first grade teacher at the Monona Terrace!  We've both changed a little bit in 45 years but that was just amazing.
The fight still continues, but I have a feeling of accomplishment, something shared with the hundreds of volunteers in Rock County.  I'm one in a million that carried a box.
Georgia  Stapleton
Georgia Stapleton, Shawano
On Tuesday, November 9, 2010, I turned in my resignation and retirement as an RN Case Manager in a large WI hospital. This came after a 43 year career as a health care provider in this state.   It was one week after Scott Walker, then Milwaukee County Executive, was elected as Governor of Wisconsin.  Also, Russ Feingold had been defeated by Ron Johnson.  Both Walker and Johnson had demonized what they termed “Obamacare” and I knew there would be a turn for the worse in patients’ healthcare rights and benefits.  I could not go into patients’ rooms and tell them “you have no benefit” for such things that they might otherwise be qualified for under other leadership, such as Family Care, Senior Care, Badger Care. I could also see that other future Medicaid and Medicare benefits would be diminishing in the hands of these men and the likes of these men.  I knew things would only get worse for healthcare. And I was right.
I threw in the “working towel” and went back home to Shawano, where my husband and I had raised our kids.  He had taught for the Menominee Indian School District for 28 years and had already retired several years prior, one of those union public employees, you know.  When he retired after all those years, he was making in the $40,000 per year range – even with many  graduate credits.  (He made $9,600 his first year in 1978 – we had a family of four then). We sustained the years of bringing up our three daughters, now all adults, under the QEO of Tommy Thompson.  My husband went into teaching because he wanted to be a teacher.  Face it, in 1974 when he went back to school after serving in the military, as a young man, retirement benefits were far from his reason to become a teacher.   That was the last thing we thought of getting him through school and having our babies. He wanted to be a teacher, and he wanted to work for the Menominee Indian School District and that is what he did – for all those years, and it comes with great pride. My work in healthcare was mostly in the private sector, I might add, non union.  
On February 12th, 2011, while attending a non political charity event in Madison, I observed and carefully listened to the conversations about the “Repair Bill” Scott Walker had put forth the day before.  The following weekend, as things broke loose in Wisconsin, we went back to Madison again and protested with the thousands, who also were in a state of shock with Walker’s proposals.  It was the beginning of the harm that Scott Walker would do to the people of Wisconsin, but it also was the beginning of the determination of the people of Wisconsin to seek justice, fairness, humane leadership.
I became Secretary of the Democratic Party of Shawano County in the meanwhile and was determined that we could take back our state with hard work, unified goals, and old fashioned elbow grease.  We continued the protest efforts – to gain a voice that would be listened to all over this country, and it has.  Anyone that has traveled around, has heard from people all over – “what is going on in WI?” – and they watch with careful vision. We assisted with the Senatorial recalls, and were able to hold on to our Democratic Senators.  We helped raise funds because we knew it would take money to take on the fight.  But more than anything, while obtaining petition signatures to recall Scott Walker we listened to the stories and we tried to make amends and give hope to the story tellers who had been hurt, who had their hopes for their futures broken, who have been treated unfairly by a legislature led by a man who could care less about the prosperity of the common person in WI.
It hurts my heart to hear from people who have been economically intimidated and threatened into retirement, public servants for many years, because they fear their promised retirements will be taken away or altered.  They would rather continue working and give to their communities, their state, their country. Wisconsin has lost experienced public health nurses, experienced nursing home surveyors, experienced Planned Parenthood nurses due to this reason.  Scott Walker took away the ability for constituents of Wisconsin who could qualify for Family Care benefits, by illegally putting caps on their applications in July 2011. It wasn’t until the federal government stepped in and mandated that he lift those caps and also offer the benefit to another 15 counties. He tried to get away with this. In the meanwhile, those people  - the elderly and disabled would go without what should have been coming to them. I know the benefits of Family Care – I worked with them every day during discharge planning as an RN Case Manager.  He has threatened to take away Medicaid benefits from thousands of constituents, not because they are lazy, as he would portray, but because they have lost their jobs.  I know, I was in the trenches in the hospital rooms, and listened to people who indeed would have been glad to work, but there were no jobs for them. (Scott Walker ran on the premise he was going to “create” the jobs)  He and his party have suppressed voter rights.  I grew up in the 60’s – I know what it is to fight for civil rights – he has made a joke of that fight.  Union members have been bullied because they, too, have lost their rights – and are worried and disturbed because they don’t know what is going to happen to their jobs or healthcare, when they would not qualify for any other type of insurance – or obviously could not afford it. I know, I worked for insurance companies and know the impact of an insurance letter of denial.  I was a nursing assistant in 1968, three years after Medicare first became law. Yet here, as an almost ready recipient of it, as someone who has put money into that system, we are threatened with having that benefit – not “entitlement” – altered, and the likes of Scott Walker and/or Ron Johnson would not stand up for us.  Military members who signed these recall petitions said time and again that they did not fight a war to come back to Wisconsin to this. One even talked about a freedom of speech episode at Christmas – that to sing at the Capitol, Scott Walker tried to make these people apply for a permit to do so. This veteran had been on foreign ground, with life at stake for his country, and now was requested to apply to sing for Christmas in his home Wisconsin, a Constitutional right of freedom of speech? My husband fought in a war – I have observed what it is to fight for your country that you have faith in, which now has let you down.  A nurse without any public health hands-on experience from Texas has been appointed to head the Public Health of our state – and that is ok with Scott Walker. She was involved in the Heritage Foundation, funded by the Kochs, for four months in 2011.  In the meanwhile, our public health of WI depends on her direction. Were others, especially those experienced in the public health agencies in our state even considered?  As a nurse, I find this disgusting and appalling.  We have been let down, and in the words of Julie Wells, “Scott Walker has lied to us.”  These are lies in words and actions.
What did carrying that white box of 25#  mean to me?  It meant freedom – freedom that the people of this state have taken upon themselves to regain the chance of right.  I thought carrying that box may be heavy.  But it was the lightest 25# I ever touched.  The signatures inside restored my faith in mankind, that a chance for justice for the state of Wisconsin and its people may once again be led by someone who cares about ALL the people of this state, ALL the people of this country.  It also made me so thankful for all those people who came forth to sign those petitions, and for all those who helped obtain those signatures.  They all had their stories, which were sometimes almost draining to listen to because of the sadness and hopelessness that this man, Scott Walker, has caused.  But they did something about it. They came by and signed the pieces of paper that I had the honor to carry so that they may be free of intimidation, of threats, of rights taken away. People stood out in our Wisconsin cold, ice and snow.  Now they may have the possibility for those rights to be restored and for further rights to not be snatched away. These were no ordinary pieces of paper.  They were pieces of voice, pieces of regaining self worth, pieces of human determination. This governor has tried to turn this state upside down.  He has instilled fear into many instead of leading.  We know that recalling him is our right, our fight for justice, our voice.  To carry the symbol of the unity of all those who also believe in those rights, those fights for justice, those voices that are now heard by these numbers -  more than one million - that was history; it was energy; it was an unforgettable high honor.

Tom Stepanek, Waushara County
Tom Stepanek
My Story

I have been blest within the days of my life to wear many different hats.  The hats of being a husband, father, Christian and educator are the ones I wear the most and with the greatest pride.  A year ago I never would have dreamt that I would add to that list the hat of a political activist.  It was a hat that was uncomfortable and difficult to wear at times but it led me down a path of new experiences and new people that I will never forget. 

Yet getting the email telling me I was to represent Waushara County and carry a box of recall signatures into the GAB was overwhelming.  I have yet to gather the words to truly express the feeling of that moment.  I just stared at the screen.  Although I tried to sleep, I knew that it would be impossible with the thoughts that were racing through my mind.  As I lay in bed staring at the darkness the inevitable question came into my mind….why me?  There were so many people who were just as or even more worthy as I.  They were also out in the cold gathering petitions for the first round of recall elections.  They suffered the insults and braved the elements to have their voice be heard.  They were standing on the street adding their laughter when they were given “the finger” by an 80+ year old woman.  They walked in the parades and carried signs and shared in the disappointment when we didn’t win our recall election.  Yet come November they also rallied to the cause and once again stood on the street and braved the elements to stand up for democracy.  I guess I was just blessed and lucky. 

On the day we delivered the petitions I was so excited that not even the snowstorm I was driving through could dampen the day.  I got to the Monona Terrace well before the appointed time and had the opportunity to sit at a table and watch as other box carriers arrived.  What struck me was the diversity of the people gathering.  There was a wide range of ages and ethnic backgrounds, we were so different yet strangely I felt we held a common bond.  As I savored the moment it suddenly hit me:  these were the “little people” that my mother talked about.  To her the “little people” were the folks that went to work every day did their fair share and lived life by the rules.  The “little people” would not want a “hand out” but were the first in line to offer “hand up” to a neighbor in need. When she chose who to vote for, it was someone who would stand up for the “little guy”.  It was suddenly all so clear, here we were, a group of “little people”, who gathered from all corners of the state, to be the voice of the thousands of “little people” each of us represented.

 As we marched up the street and around the Capitol I shouted as loud and as long as I could, so the voice of “the little people” would be heard.  As I picked up my box from the truck and headed into the building I carried not only the voice of all “the little people” I represented their hopes and dreams of a better Wisconsin as well.  It was an honor I will cherish the rest of my life.

Mike Tapia, Madison
Mike Tapia
Friday the 13th has been historically, and superstitiously known as a day where bad luck occurs. After the year Wisconsinites have had, not to mention, the bombs that have been dropped by this government on Fridays, I entered that day thinking, “What else could possibly go wrong?”

Well absolutely nothing went wrong for me, instead, it went wrong for Scott Walker.
I received an email from the Democratic Party titled “You are the one!”
Here I thought it was another fund raising email. I opened it just thinking “How much now?” But little did I realize that it was an email explaining to me that I had won a contest to represent my county as part of the Democratic Party to historically turn in what we now know as the largest organized recall in history.

To say I was overwhelmed is a huge understatement. I remember reading it, and I literally got choked up. I almost couldn’t breathe. After a year of protesting, volunteering, becoming involved in state politics and the recalls of the senators, I felt a sense of closure. Almost how a family feels when a criminal who attacked their family is arrested.
Yes that explains it pretty well. Scott Walker IS a criminal, and the citizens of this state have spoken and are making a citizens' arrest to prevent Scott Walker from continuing to break laws and re-write them as he seems fit.

To carry that box, was an honor that I could never be more proud of.  It was a historic event that I can’t believe I had the honor of carrying a box, with my tag showing I represented Dane County, the County of our Capitol City that became known worldwide due to the protests.

As I walked the long walk to enter the Government Accountability Board Office, I felt overwhelmed with happiness. Normally, I am a very shy individual who does not like getting too much attention. I feel embarrassed and shy when I’m called out in a room of people. But not that day. Not January 17, 2012.
I was overwhelmed with happiness.  I cried out of happiness, which the last time that happened, was at the birth of my daughter almost 11 years ago.

Finally the partisan bitterness that caused broken friendships, a state polarized when we’ve always been known as a friendly state, was starting to mend together.
When my brother who I’ve always argued with over politics, found out that I was picked called me, I almost did not answer the phone. I was expecting an argument about unions, about politics, about something or another.

But I did not expect to hear my brother tell me how proud he was of me, I became choked up to hear him tell me how his little brother stood his ground and became an important part of this historic recall.

The box was justice. It was not the final chapter of justice, but the beginning of the end of a long battle that while some have become weary, some have given up, has continued to become stronger as each day went on.

The box represented the patients I care for at the hospital I work at. Those who cannot afford healthcare who are being used as political pawns so that Scott Walker could kick them off Medicaid to fix a deficit that he claimed he fixed already.

Carrying that box also was for my daughter, her school, and her teachers. Who, prior to Scott Walker were always appreciated and respected. Now, Scott Walker has painted this image of a teacher who lives high off the hog, gets paid summers off, and makes six figure salaries.

I ask what world do we live in where people take politicians' words for the truth? Several people didn’t even bother to question Scott Walker. They just followed along with his attacks on state workers, teachers, and the middle class families. People who were living off the same pay or more than middle class families were attacking their own peers. Why? Because Scott Walker said so.

Regardless of what happens in Scott Walkers John Doe probe, to me, turning in that box was my way of “throwing the book” at him.
This was the beginning of fixing a torn brotherhood, mending relationships, healing patients who’ve suffered enough, and giving teachers and the public sector the respect they deserve once again.

Finally, one of the many friends I met this past year and who touched my heart is terminally ill. She had stated that she wanted to live long enough to see Scott Walker recalled. Carrying that box was for you, Diane.  We did it!

Robin TransØ
Robin TransØ, Director of the InHealth Community Wellness (Free) Clinic and Chair of United Wisconsin of Grant County
I was honored to have been selected to represent Grant County as a Recall Petition Box Carrier, not for myself or my own memories, but because of the 30,000 Wisconsin volunteers who fought so hard to give others a voice.  The fact is that I may never have had that honor if it were not for a single conversation with Ilana Strauch, United Wisconsin’s South Western Regional Coordinator.

Since taking early retirement from teaching, my life has been centered on finding health access for the working poor. I started a Free Clinic, dental programs that serve children in four counties, an Outreach Thrift Shop and dental access programs for adults. With all of that and my family I had to think twice about getting involved in being a United Wisconsin County Chairperson.

As I spoke to Ilana and as I tried to talk myself out of taking on something else in my life, it dawned on me that this is exactly what I was supposed to do.  I believe that I am in a position to speak out for others when the strong oppress the weak; someone has to. I realized I had to help recall Walker because his policies were making our Middle Class weaker and our poor, poorer.  By knocking people off Badger Care and Medicaid, by getting rid of health screenings for women, Walker would be taking away the only safety nets some of our poorest citizens have for health care. I had no choice but to tell Ilana I would do everything in my power to help Grant County get signatures.

The whole process for me was a journey of love. Love for my State, love for my neighbors, love for the poor and love for volunteers all over the State that I have come to know as family. The journey took me to communities all over my County where I met people I never knew existed. I found I had courage to stand up to huge men who put my volunteers down, I found I had strength when my involvement was put down in our local papers, I found I had unceasing support from my family.

I discovered many amazing things about myself on this journey. I discovered that I am Wisconsin and as long as each one of us comes together to fight for what we believe in, apathy has no life. I found that one person can educate many and many people can educate the world.

When I walked to the GAB I rang my cowbell, I sang with people who represented over a million Wisconsinites and felt honored and humbled to have been selected to help carry the voice of the people.

While others smiled carrying their box I fought back tears. In many ways it was the single most important walk down the aisle I have ever taken. As I reached the half way mark to the GAB my emotions were compounded when my 29 year old son stepped out on the path. He touched my shoulder and leaned forward and kissed my cheek. As he looked me in the eyes he said “I am so proud of you mom.” At that moment my journey for the people of Wisconsin came full circle and I saw how I had not only spent the last 60 days fighting for the people of Wisconsin, I had just spent the last sixty days showing my children how to fight as well.

Wake up Fighting Bob, you are both alive and well. I am proud to call myself, if even in my single voice, Wisconsin. 

Nancy and Kim, Portage County

Wow, one million strong!  That should say it all, but it doesn't quite get to the brunt of what we have to say about our adventures in Madison.  It was truly an amazing day, one where we held you in our hearts throughout our journey.  We were so very honored to be representing you, the volunteers, and each and every signature that was etched on paper within the county.  We remembered the challenges you've been through: cold weather, nasty gestures, putting yourselves out there in sometimes uncomfortable situations, and often required to reflect on how Walker's policies affected your lives.  We focused on your strength, laughter, courage, intelligence, compassion, stamina, cooperativeness, and creativity that you engaged to achieve our goals; to collect a bunch of signatures and try to find each and every person that wanted to sign, knowing how important it was to be able to sign those petitions because each story was unique and each was just as significant as the next.  I tried to remember the faces of the signers, the proud people in assisted living that clearly understood this man is bad for Wisconsin, the souls in low income housing that were rarely asked for their opinions, the disabled that cried after they signed, the grown man that literally jumped up and down on Main St after he signed.

On our return trip, we noticed that yesterday every detail had been addressed by those that participated in and those that organized the day.  We (about 140 people) met at Monona Terrace, greeted by our own Sean.  We were provided with tags, food, shown a map of the route to the GAB, and a briefing for the day.  We left together, walking towards the capital, chanting familiar chants that somehow had a different feel to them then a year ago.  Cars honked as we marched, familiar honks of "this is what democracy looks like".  Happy passersby.  We rounded the capital, and paused on each side, for onlookers from within to soak in a bit of the scene.  We met up with Sean, then Terese, Steve, and Sandy.  Passing buses gave an enthusiastic honk to our group, drivers with a thumbs up and ear to ear smiles.  We parted ways, box carriers to the right, others continued ahead.  When it was our turn, we were given box #1, and Portage Co was announced, we walked the gauntlet to the GAB, protected by cheering field organizers en route, we saw Sean and Charles and our Portage Co contingent, and as we arrived at the doorway, Portage County was once again announced.  We had guides at every turn in the GAB as we made our way to the small back room that held our precious petitions, each containing the stories of so many Wisconsinites.

Once all of the boxes were safely delivered, we headed out and made our way to our statehouse.  Entering the building, we announced we were home.  Paused for a bit in the rotunda, listened to the chants of others, and eventually made our way out and headed back to Monona Terrace.  In the hallway at Monona, we could look down on to the large party room.  Simply decorated in blue and white, the colors of United Wisconsin, a group that didn't even exist a year ago.  A group comprised of us, ordinary people from the state of Wisconsin with the common goal, to restore our state.  While festive music played, the room began to fill, it filled so much a false wall was removed and the space doubled, it too filled, totaling around 4,000 people.  Somehow we were able to find even more folks from Portage Co (Michele, Rita, Mary, Deb, Cindy).  The light Brade started the show with lighted letters spelling RECALL, then some tastefully done yet celebratory speeches from all of the partners, all willing to concede their attention to the true story, the million Wisconsinites compelled to put paper to pen.

We wished that each and every one of you were able to be with us for this day.  Although you can see many views of this day on the web, we've attached a few below that help to tell the story.  

With gratitude,

Nancy and Kim
Co coordinators, United Wisconsin, Portage Co

Peter J. Watts, Watertown, WI, Dodge County 

Peter Watts
The Box of Dreams

We pulled into the parking structure at Monona Terrace on a blustery, snowy day. My wife Julie and I scuttled into the Terrace and were greeted by smiling faces and directed to the check-in table where I gave my name. Actually, it was this moment that I realized that I really was the only person from Dodge County to carry a box of petitions. I never thought of myself as an “individual” during the two months of collecting signatures. I was more of a symbolic collective entity inspired by our democracy. The “You Are the One!” subject line in the email in my mind was a mere figure of speech. That moment of realization was one filled with giddy gratification followed by serious sobriety. Nearly 30,000 Wisconsin volunteers acted with singular purpose, connected to one another by a cause greater than any one person. We were, and still are, a symbiotic organism, working for the good of the whole. Not only was this experience shared with other petition circulators, but in a very real way we were connected to each and every person who signed a petition.

After checking in, Julie and I found a table, relieved that I wasn’t sequestered, leaving her alone. We met some amazing people at that round table. I hugged Sarah Niemann Hammer, a woman Julie and I met on a bridge in Fort Atkinson the day that Republicans took collective bargaining out of the so-called budget repair bill, making it a non-fiscal item. With the “Fab Fourteen” out of state eliminating a quorum, Republicans bulldozed 50 years of respectful union relations under a heap of broken open meetings law, shattered procedure, and shameful arrogance. Hubris has infected the representative voices in government, leaving a lingering, acrid taste of injustice.

Sarah mentioned that we should have been at the GAB at 11:00 A.M. for the turning in of the petitions to recall Fitzgerald. I was a little disappointed at first, but that feeling quickly vanished because I realized that I would not have met the three activists from Ashland and Bayfield counties if I had not been here, now, at this time. I doubt very much that Walker, and those of his ilk, predicted that their heinous acts of cowardice and deceit would galvanize so many people from so many different places. It is diversity that unites us and makes us strong. We have become extended family, bound together by sundry threads that comprise Wisconsin’s rich tapestry. We care for this state, its progressive history, and its people.

In the murmuring voices around the room, I heard rumors that over a million signatures were gathered to recall Walker. I hoped it was true.

The moment was upon us. After a few speeches and directions, we stood, gathering our signs and belongings for the cold march to the GAB office. I realized that I missed the protests; the swarms of disenfranchised citizens, the drums, the good natured but serious gatherings of like-minded people trying to be heard by seemingly deaf politicians.

Our route was circuitous to avoid interfering with traffic. I suppose it was a request from the Madison Police Department, but I know that, even in our exuberance, we would have been polite and respectful. We have always been respectful, despite the jeers, violence, and profanity of Walker supporters. That reminds me, I need to ask Lori Compas for my “F-BOMB” button! Humor is a huge part of who we are as well.

We clumped together next to a U-Haul truck with a banner reading “WE DID IT – for WISCONSIN’S FUTURE” and sheltering each other from a cold north wind. I was standing on tip-toes, trying to see what was happening. Looking around me, at the plethora of wonderful faces of Wisconsin, I felt that flush of not being worthy of carrying a box of petitions. So many had done so much more than I. My friend Tom Peer drove from Madison to collect signatures in Dodge County while he had pneumonia. Why was I here? I could hear Julie Wells speaking from the back of the truck, but it was difficult to make out what was being said. After about a half hour of biting wind, I finally got my box of petitions. It occurred to me how precious this cargo was. Scanning the ground for ice, and any other obstacle that might cause me to drop it, I worried about the box opening. I worried about its contents being blown about by a nonpartisan wind. I thought about the hopes and dreams of the people who signed these petitions, each signature a story in its own right. My mind flashed to that single mother who angrily signed the petitions in Beaver Dam, feeling abandoned by her representatives in Madison. That elderly couple who invited me in from the cold while they signed, telling me how their children had been affected by that “bought and paid for puppet Walker and his cronies”. I recalled the day that I was turning in completed petitions at the Watertown office, donated by Ron Ziwisky. A bed-ridden man, who had already signed the Walker and Kleefisch petitions, wondered if he could somehow get the Scott Fitzgerald petition. It was the snowy Friday before petitions were due and I had four-wheel drive, so I offered to go to his apartment. I spent some time with that man, a quadriplegic, who told me stories of how his family, including his Republican sister and brother-in-law, signed all three petitions. Before leaving, his nurse, who stood silently by listening to our conversation, also signed the petition. Every one of them had a story to tell, each with their own reasons to fight the misguided agenda of radical and divisive legislature.

As I carried “my” box, I began to get caught up in the energy of the noisy gauntlet of supporters. My pace quickened. Serious thoughts turned to jubilant smiles. Heck, I even did a jig to honor my feisty Celtic ancestors, for they were here with me, too. Someone from the crowd asked if he could take my photograph. I obliged, stopping for that brief moment, looking into a sea of grins and shining eyes brimming with hope. My mind eventually drifted back to those who had done more than I for this cause, yet here I was… “The One” from Dodge County chosen to be part of that historic day on 17 January 2012. I cannot express my thankfulness for those who took leadership roles in this movement, those who braved the cold even while they were ill, those elders who carefully scribed their personal information while being rudely cussed at by those with no clue of what patriotism is and democracy means. I will continue this fight for those who are on the righteous side of this war against workers, the poor, the elderly, and the middle class. There is comfort knowing that almost two million of us are waiting to take up the standard in battle against rubber-stamping tyrants whose days are numbered.

That small blue and white box with the blue shiny tape was, indeed, a box of dreams…

Peter J. Watts

Julie Wells, Fort Atkinson. Julie is the United Wisconsin County Coordinator for Jefferson County who filed the recall papers against Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch and earned the high honor of depositing the first box of signed petitions in the GAB.
I had the honor of carrying the first box.
Julie Wells
As I carried that box to the cheer of hundreds, the roar of a million rang in my head.  The box I carried was weighty. The length of the walk was not far. I would have carried that box all across the state for everyone to see if needed.  I carried that box proudly for all the people that signed those petitions. Each signature has a story. They are stories of despair. They are stories of anger. They are stories of hope.
I carried that box for the teachers. It was full of the pride they carry as they help shape our children every day. It was full of the heartache and pain that has been unjustly inflicted on them. I am humbled by the dedication these teachers continue to have to their students. I hope that by carrying that box, I have helped to take some of the weight off their shoulders.
I carried that box for the disabled who could not be there to carry a box. I carried in it their dreams of being treated as valuable members of society. Their hopes of having healthcare available for their needs and their right to  live with dignity.
I carried that box for the students. I carried their hopes  of getting  a good education. I carried their dreams of a better future. I carried their need to become valued members of their communities.
I carried that box for the working people. Those in unions and those who are not. In that box was the history of the labor movement that we must never forget.
I carried that box of hope for the elderly. The ones who have fought for our rights and freedoms all their lives and who are now watching with disbelief as these rights  are being destroyed. Those who have voted all their lives and who are now losing that right. I carried that box as a symbol of the torch they are passing on to us. We are taking up that torch and continuing the fight.
I carried that box for the man who came into our office and said "I voted for that SOB and I want my vote back!"
I carried that box for the woman who's brother teaches in Milwaukee and now has a class size of 50 students.
I carried that box for the woman who is 85 yrs old and called for me to bring her a petition as she no longer drives. She is so disturbed by all that's being done, she insisted on filling in everything on those petitions. She needed a large magnifying glass to read and her hands were stiff and shaky from arthritis but she refused my offer to help. She NEEDED to put pen to paper to feel the power of what we are doing
I carried that box for the couple from Czechoslovakia who are now US citizens. As they signed I heard their story of fleeing their home to start over here. They warned that this is how it started there. We must heed their warning!
I carried that box for all the people who sacrificed to fill that box. The people who volunteered to be there for all those who wanted to sign those petitions. Those people who stood out in the cold, the rain, the snow. The people who knocked on door after door in the dark to find those who had not yet signed but wanted to. The people who were cussed at, flipped off, threatened and didn't quit. The people who stepped up to the plate and gave it their all. The amazing people who gladly gave of themselves so that others could exercise their right to sign.
I carried that box for my grandchildren. I carried it for their future. I carried it because they could not. I carried it with joy in my heart for knowing that we are on the right side of history.
I carried the first box. It was not heavy,  over 1 million good people  in Wisconsin helped me carry it.
Fred Zenz, Prairie du Chien
Fred Zenz
I have never felt so exhilarated in my entire life as I did carrying in that box of recall petitions. It was like catching the winning touchdown in the Superbowl, hitting the winning home run in the 7th game of the World Series! It was making history in the spirit of Fighting Bob LaFollette! After working to recall Dan Kapanke and working to get Council 1 to vote for re-certification in 2011 this was the next step in returning Wisconsin  to the people! I would love to do it again and I will be dancing in the street when we recall Walker and elect a true representative of the people of Wisconsin.

1,000,000 +




  1. Thank you to one and all. Since this all began a year ago I knew what we had to do was going to take a serious effort from us all. I am glad we did this, and am proud to have served in this battle with all of you. Individually we are ONE in a MILLION. but I am so glad that we are ONE MILLION STRONG and now we must continue to FIGHT ON WISCONSIN!

    Mark Balwinski

  2. What a wonderful collection of stories! Everyone with their own reasons for being a part of this, yet all working together to make it happen! Thank you!

  3. Wow! I hope a copy of this post goes to the Wisconsin State Historical Society. It is that significant. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for standing up for the best interests of the people of WI!

  5. I'm forwarding this to everyone I know! Everyone's story is so different and unique. The one common feeling is the love we all have for our state! Forward!!!

  6. So many homegrown Wisconsinites stepped up to take back their government from the corporate welfare crowd. These stories really lay waste to the ridiculous right-wing stereotype of paid and out-of-state union thugs.

  7. This is awesome!! Just last Friday a co-worker told me that Scooter will never be recalled because he has too much money behind him and that it's only Madison who is fighting this. I was very saddened by this thought. The Koch Brothers have a ton of money to spend on sound-bite commercials to appeal to voters who don't really check out their candidates. They depend of the voters believing the tv ads. Who else could take down Russ Feingold the hero-politician of Wisconsin? But then I checked this blog. This blog PROVES that assumption is w-r-o-n-g-o!! There were boxes being brought in from ALL OVER THE STATE. Wisconsinites are invigorated. I'm so proud of all the hard work that went into this--to the Wisconsin Volunteers a BIG HUG AND A THANK YOU. I did a little bit by getting people together to sign petitions--even helped two Republican friends sign the petition who are still Republican but not fans of Fitzwalkerstan. I'm going to forward this to the co-worker who crushed my spirit last week. Maybe it will inspire her? Solidarity INDEED!! Thanks for this blog!!