The Evolution of a Couch
August 13, 2009 1:34 PM
Over the next few days, the terraces of downtown Madison will become stacked with the flotsam of middle class America. A lovely mauve couch, the height of fashion in 1985, will go to its final resting place after starting life in a place of honor in the living room, then moving down to the family rec room, then on to a student rental and then another one and another one until it ends up on the curb on Gilman Street.
The UW is the largest, most influential institution in our city, far outdistancing state government or any one industry. The UW provides good paying, stable jobs to 16,000 faculty and staff. Ideas hatched at the UW often spin off into successful businesses that create wealth and employ still more people.
But the biggest asset of the UW for our city is the students themselves. Every year 6,000 or so of the brightest young people in the world come here as freshmen. (Thankfully the old Board of Regents admissions standards weren't so tough back in 1979, or I wouldn't be here writing this today.) It's these kids who will eventually hatch some of those ideas and build some of those businesses and virtually every one of them will develop a life-long attachment to our town. They'll speak of Madison fondly wherever their lives take them, providing us better advertising then any marketing campaign could ever create. And from time to time most of them will return for a weekend, reconnecting with some of their fondest memories of Madison and pumping up our tourism economy while they're here.
Maybe most importantly, students keep us young and vibrant. Each new batch of students brings their own music, clothes, ideas and energy to town along with their stereos, beat up couches and retro lava lamps. The annual influx of new young blood keeps Madison connected to the latest trends in everything...and provides the final resting place for tons of once prized family furniture.
For most of us college is about choosing a career, learning who we are and making lifelong friendships. So, the social aspects of college life are important, and that shouldn't be forgotten by people of my age who want nothing more after nine o'clock then a good book and the remote control. The UW has long held a deserved reputation as a place of high academic standards and achievement, but also a place where those same hard working scholars know how to have a good time. That reputation and the kind of young person it attracts have shaped our city for decades. Smart but not full of ourselves, hard working but fun loving is who we are as a people.
So, welcome back kids. Study hard. Have some fun. And remember that moderation in all things is not a bad piece of advice.