We all have hopes and dreams. Some for ourselves, some for our loved ones, some for our world. We dream of a brighter future, one that is better for our generations yet to come. Whether big or small, these dreams can turn into a reality only if strong, persistent actions are taken.

While many of us are still stinging from the most damaging state budget in our lifetime, it is time to pick ourselves up and begin to reorganize and refocus our efforts for the future. This can begin with envisioning our dreams for our state.

I envision a state where my four sons get to experience the best education in the country, all the way from preschool through college. I want to live in a state where our university system is the envy of the nation. I want us to be known as a state that values, cherishes, and respects its educators.

In my dreams, I see a future where our natural spaces are protected above any corporate profit while adhering to the Native American principle of thinking seven generations ahead when making decisions affecting our breathtaking environmental areas. For our freedom, health and security, we cannot afford to do otherwise.

I hope for a Wisconsin in which our vulnerable and aging citizens are prioritized. We cannot privatize our way to a strong aging and long-term care system. Success in this area cannot be measured in business terms. These situations are human, they are real, and they cannot be ignored. I dream of a day when our care providers are thanked for the work they do on a daily basis.

I dream of a Wisconsin in which we are not divided. I often talk about growing up and beaming with pride wearing my Wisconsin sweatshirt when my family traveled out of state. I treated it as a badge of honor — the quiet confidence that I came from someplace special. It is heartbreaking to see our state divided by a poisonous style of politics that is treated as a zero sum game. This environment has given me pause before packing that Badger sweatshirt.

We are better when we are united in the belief that there is truly a better future. Not a better Republican future or Democratic future. Simply, the dream of a better future for all of us.

The bottom line is this: We cannot let any government take away our people’s ability to dream. We know that government’s purpose is to support these dreams — providing the freedom and opportunity for a brighter tomorrow.

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This budget may be our darkest hour as a state, but in these shadows I see the light coming through. That flicker of light is the citizens of Wisconsin waking up and realizing that the current leaders in the Capitol are not working for the people. That flicker of light is the understanding that there is another way — a way that shouts loudly the point that we all know in our hearts to be true: When we all do better, we all do better.

For my children, for our state, and for our future, I know that together we can do better. We must stand together and find our resolve and fortitude, roll up our sleeves, and work toward making our collective dream of what Wisconsin can and should be become a reality.

Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, is a member of the state Assembly.

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