MEQUON - Gov. Scott Walker on Friday advised graduating students at Concordia University to face any uncertainty with confidence, just as he did two weeks ago when he took an impromptu ride on a 1,000-foot zip line.
In a 23-minute speech sprinkled with biblical references, Walker told graduates to trust in themselves and their education. He doesn't have a college degree himself but said his message was inspired by what happened to him a few weeks earlier.
As part of a tourism event in Green Bay, the Wisconsin Republican took the inaugural ride down a long zip line. He was given safety gear and training and said he felt ready for the jump. But when he got to the top of the 1950s-era tower and looked down he momentarily questioned his decision.
"I'm pretty fearless. I'm not afraid of heights," he told about 500 graduate students. "But even after all that training I thought, 'Lord, what have I gotten myself into?'"
Eventually he looked past the sprawling hills and trees below and focused his attention on the landing pad in the distance. As he jumped, he let out a yell of exhilaration.
He told the graduates their situation is similar: They've just finished their training and now they're getting ready to leap into the future. There might be fear and uncertainty, he said, but they should trust in their education and keep their eye on a fixed spot on the distance.
"In all you do, focus on the sun on the horizon," he counseled.
Walker referred to politics only briefly. For example, to students graduating with business degrees he mentioned that Wisconsin has improved its rankings as a place to do business. To those who studied education he said Wisconsin's ACT scores and graduation rates have improved.
But he mainly focused on his zip line analogy, speaking without notes and connecting with a largely supportive crowd. He also remembered the best piece of advice he'd received: "The lesson my mother taught me is, 'If you want to do well in life you need to do good for others. If you remember nothing else, remember that.'"
Concordia University is in Mequon, just north of Milwaukee. It's affiliated with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and is a member of the Concordia University System, a nationwide network of colleges and universities.
Walker, a potential 2016 candidate for president, attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, where he studied political science, economics and philosophy. He left school in 1990 when he was 34 credit-hours short of completing his degree.
He has said he thought about going back and finishing, but the realities of life intruded when he became a husband in 1993 and a father the following year.
Walker was first elected as governor in 2010. He faces re-election this fall against likely Democratic opponent Mary Burke, a Harvard Business School graduate who is a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle Corp. executive.