Today was a genuine day of solidarity.
I went to the Capitol today to be there when the 14 Democratic Senators returned from Illinois. The scene was inspiring -- countless thousands, by all estimates the largest number yet, huddled near one another to show their support for these heroes.
I stood behind a man from Illinois, who periodically held up his state's flag. At this moment, I didn't find it at all disrespectful -- he had come to show his support for our state's Democratic Senators, for this state's workers who have inspired many across the heartland.
But the vast majority of supporters, by my count eight out of every ten, came from Wisconsin, from all corners of the state. To my left was a group of firefighters from Racine. They, too, felt compelled to show their support for those losing their rights, though the bill doesn't affect police offices or firefighters. Their solidarity was thanked on several occasions by several members around us.
Walking through the mud up the hill, I was assisted several times, without asking for the help, by those upon higher ground. It was a metaphor for this movement, I thought to myself: people helping others, understanding that an injury to one is an injury to all (even if the injury here was simply a muddy pair of gloves).
I heard several of the 14 State Senators speak; all were inspiring, truly thankful of the people who came to support them in the past few weeks. 'Thank you' was a common theme of the rally today, too. When the senators thanked the people, the people thanked them back. But when the people thanked the senators, the senators insisted that it was they who were thankful for the people.
That's what democracy looks like, ultimately -- when it's done right.
The time came for me to head back home. I had been a part of a shuttle bus from AFSCME over on Excelsior Drive on the west side of Madison. That's right -- I was 'bussed in' by a union. Though, like everyone else on the bus with me, I am proudly from Wisconsin.
I sat next to a woman from Fennimore. She and her party were correctional officers from the area, and had just lost their bargaining rights. And yet, they remained optimistic -- the whole ride home was full of laughter, an optimism I can honestly say filled the crowd today.
And that's what I took home from the rally. This isn't the ending -- this is just the beginning. The supporters there today may have lost legislatively, but their resolve remains strong. They will fight to the end to get their rights back, to support the members of their communities that help to make our state work.
We cannot give up, and I am confident we will not give up as well.
We ARE Wisconsin.