It is difficult for me to fully express the depth of my gratitude to those who congratulated me for receiving the 2014 Frank P. Zeidler Public Service Award from the City of Milwaukee’s Common Council. The occasion was marked by a 30-minute ceremony in the council’s elegant anteroom, with 50 friends and colleagues showing up to cheer on the presentation; the following evening even more folks filled the Puddlers’ Hall in Bay View at a reception to acknowledge the honor.
I was pleasantly surprised by the many friends, colleagues and former colleagues who took time to show up at the two events. Also, I need to thank those who could not attend for expressing their kind words in many emails, with written cards and letters and on Facebook.
In my acceptance remarks at City Hall on Sept. 3, I admitted to “feeling very humble to receive an award in the name of Frank P. Zeidler. I got to know him as a reporter for the old Sentinel while he was
mayor. Even though that newspaper editorialized against him almost daily, he still treated me with respect and openness. Later on, we co-chaired a Labor and Religious Coalition and he was a continuing inspiration to our annual commemoration of the Bay View Tragedy. He cared about this city . . . and I might say, all of humanity.”
I have long admired Frank Zeidler for his commitment and dedication to building a better community for all citizens. I admire the fact that he not only “talked a good game,” but that he was able to get things done. While he was truly a pragmatic and practical politician he never sacrificed his principles.
Perhaps that was why I was most moved by what Frank’s daughter, Anita, said in comparing me to her father. If I remember the words accurately, she said that I reminded her of her father in my dedication, hard work and commitment to justice. I could have received no better praise than that.
Nonetheless I was further humbled by many others who commented upon my service to the community; so effusive were the comments that I often wondered who this individual was. I thank all of those who took time to make such statements.
In particular, I need to thank State Rep. Christine Sinicki for nominating me as well as State AFL-CIO President Emeritus David Newby, Wisconsin Labor History Society President Steve Cupery, Milwaukee’s premier historian John Gurda and Anita Zeidler for letters of support to the committee. My gratitude also goes to Zeidler Memorial Committee, particularly Art Heitzer, himself a tireless advocate for social justice.
It was most pleasing to have several aldermen at the presentation event, including Ald. Bob Bauman (who made the presentation), Council President Michael Murphy and my own alderman, Terry Witkowski. Mayor Tom Barrett was unable to attend but issued a proclamation declaring Wednesday, Sept 3, as “Kenneth A. Germanson Day.” How about that!
Three State Legislators attended the Thursday night reception, including Rep. Sinicki, Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson and Dan Riemer, and presented me with a resolution of commendation from the State Legislature. Sen. Larson commented that Gov. Scott Walker was not asked to sign on to the action.
All of the accomplishments that were mentioned in the comments would not have been possible without the support of so many committed and dedicated friends and colleagues, whether in my work or in my volunteer efforts. Their presence was always reassuring as I pursued all of these quests (many of them likely quixotic) knowing that these marvelous folks were right along at my side.
Last, but most importantly, I must acknowledge the support of my wife of sixty years, Ann, who suffered through many nights and weekends of my absence while bearing the major burden of raising our five children. Thankfully, she shared my goals of social justice and often participated in the work at my side.
If nothing else the receipt of this award reminded me of the fact that the work of creating a just society never ends and that – regardless of present-day despair – the arc of history bends toward justice as long as we continue in our work. It seems we all have lots of work to do. Ken Germanson, Sept. 7, 2014