The Milliken Legacy: More than Nostalgia

It is time for citizens to lead—and the political leaders will follow

Governor Milliken’s official portrait graced the cover of his public memorial service at the Interlochen Center for the Arts on August 6.

By Dave Dempsey

In the flurry of news coverage about last week’s memorial service for the late Governor William Milliken, there was plenty of talk of days gone by. The Governor left office 37 years ago, and it sometimes seems as though moderation, civility and environmental ethics left office with him.

But focusing on that would be the wrong takeaway. The Milliken example is a model for today, not a relic of yesterday.

All five speakers at the service, including Milliken’s longtime advisor Bill Rustem and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, struck the right note—a celebration rather than a sad farewell.

FLOW has contributed plenty to the the conversation—in our blog coverage, in our Milliken video testimonials, and in the news media—about the Milliken environmental legacy, including the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. The Governor happened to serve at a time when public consciousness of the need for environmental reforms was peaking, and the man and the times together contributed to our state’s advancement.

Public consciousness is again growing of the need to stabilize our climate, protect fresh water, and conserve vital habitat. But we cannot wait for another Milliken or Teddy Roosevelt to convert that consciousness into positive change.

Instead, it is time for us to lead—and the political so-called leaders will follow. I think Governor Milliken would approve of renewed citizen activism to meet the challenges of our time.

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It is time for citizens to lead—and the political leaders will follow