Mandela Barnes, who was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor for Wisconsin on Monday, spent part of his first full day in the position addressing MHS students in the U.S. Government & Politics course.
Barnes spoke for approximately 15 minutes on Tuesday, Jan. 8 during the 13th full legislative session at the Performing Arts Center. He was introduced by junior Max Prestigiacomo.
Barnes, 32, spoke about his experiences as an American politician, community organizer and former state representative. He became the state's 45th Lieutenant Governor -- and first African-American Lieutenant Governor in Wisconsin -- when he was sworn in.
He also spoke glowingly of new Governor Tony Evers.
"We are two diverse people,'' Barnes said. "We have led two very different lives and seen some very different things.''
Barnes noted he grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Alabama A&M in 2009. He returned to the state and took an unpaid internship with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett even though that wasn't what he planned to do coming out of college.
"It ended up being the opportunity of a lifetime,'' he said. "You don't always know where opportunities lie, but you should take them because you don't know where they will lead.''
Barnes noted he won an assembly race in 2012 and lost a state senate race in 2016.
"It is OK to fail. It is an option,'' he said. "But it's important to learn from failure. That is very important.''
Barnes said the administration plans to make education a priority. He also acknowledged Monday was a historic moment but wants to make sure all Wisconsin residents succeed.
"The more money we put into schools the less money we will need to put into prisons,'' he said. "It shouldn't matter what your zip code is. We should all have the opportunity to thrive. I want to see Wisconsin be a place where you can grow.''
Barnes encouraged students to pay attention to local government because that is where the most change occurs. And he closed by reminding students the future is theirs.
"We have the next doctors, teachers and lawyers in this room,'' Barnes said. "We may have a future governor or president. We need to be teaching and training our next generation of leaders. ... None of this work we do happens on our own.''