Serving in the U.S. Senate, Amy Klobuchar draws on her Minnesota roots and “the Midwestern belief that you are part of something bigger than yourself.” Klobuchar, the first woman to represent Wisconsin’s western neighbor in the Senate, wove that theme throughout her presentation, “Internationalism in the Heartland,” at UW-Madison on Feb. 17.
A Democrat in her second term, she recalled how several of her predecessors from Minnesota championed legislation that emphasized the important role of international relations to the U.S. economy and human rights issues.
Democrats Walter Mondale and Eugene McCarthy and Republicans Rudy Boschwitz and Bill Frenzel saw businesses doing more work outside the United States and agricultural exports growing, she said. Religious communities in Minnesota and elsewhere also were advocating for global human rights during their tenures in office.
Those issues remain central to international relations today, but she said they also can affect people very close to home. As a senator, and especially in these instances, she sees her role as a neighbor – to a mother whose son died while serving in the military or to a dad whose child is on a high school trip in Guatemala where a mudslide happened.
On a broader level, Klobuchar emphasized the importance of international aid to countries in Africa and Asia. Aid to help build economies in fledgling democracies is critical to foreign policy, she said.
“Once they do that, we not only have allies in the fight against terrorism ... but when you step back a little and see what they’re dealing with when terrorists come into their country, you want to have partners, and you can’t have partners if their economy is such a mess,” she explained.
Closer to home, Klobuchar talked about the need for immigration reform. As the granddaughter of Swiss immigrants, Klobuchar knows well “the melting pot that we have in the Midwest.” Her father’s grandparents also were immigrants.
“This idea that we should just keep people out of our country whether it’s because of their faith or where they’re from is so foreign to me from a moral standpoint,” she said. “But the argument I would make to you when you talk about this issue is again an economic one. It’s important to see it in an economic light.”
Klobuchar’s campus visit was hosted by UW-Madison’s Office of Federal Relations, La Follette School of Public Affairs and Department of Political Science. More than 100 faculty, staff, students and community members attended her presentation at the Microbial Sciences Building.