Cory Nettles revisits Lawrence

Audrey Hull

Last week, Lawrence alum Cory J. Nettles, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, gave a speech in Riverview Lounge regarding the value of education at Lawrence. Sponsored by the College Democrats, Nettles’ talk emphasized the importance of a liberal arts based sense of internationalism in today’s political world.Nettles opened his speech with reminiscences of the highlights of his Lawrence career. A former government major, he mentioned his study-abroad experience as an example of the significance of what he termed “internationalism,” or the awareness of the international world, in modern politics as well as everyday life. He also touted the values of being a quick study and having a passion for knowledge and problem solving, adding that these particular advantages had aided him throughout his career.

An especially salient point of Nettles’ discussion was the value of a high-quality education towards critical and creative thinking. According to Nettles, this ability to think critically as well as imaginatively augments all fields and careers, and also improves one’s personal life.

Nettles’ varied career has spanned from practicing corporate law to serving on the committee for the department of commerce. As he stated in his talk, initially he was “not interested in politics – I wanted to avoid administration.” Originally, Nettles worked in grassroots politics, later concentrating on a policy agenda that focused on being socially and economically proactive. From these beginnings, Nettles went on to become the youngest member of the commerce department.

A question-and-answer session followed Nettles’ brief speech. Replying to a query concerning his political bent, he said that he disagreed with the current definitions of “Democrat” and “Republican,” which he regarded as “hyper-partisan. Politics has become an issue of winners and losers, instead of issues of good policies.” Nettles then stated that he was disappointed with President Bush, who he criticized for shirking his responsibilities to the U.S. He emphasized the importance of “not taking for granted the liberty to disagree with the rights of liberty.”

Nettles then extolled the virtues of democracy, which are, in his words, “the ability to participate in elections without being assured of a definite vote.”

Nettles closed his speech by commending and encouraging the political aspirations of those in the age group 18-25. He mentioned that he has noticed an increasing level of participation, especially in Madison, with young adults contributing to election campaigns, for example that of Howard Dean.

Nettles can be reached at