May 23, 1997
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On a sunny, summer-like afternoon -- a far cry from Lambeau Field's frozen tundra -- President Clinton welcomed the Green Bay Packers to the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday and congratulated the team our their Super Bowl victory, the first for the team in 29 years.
But, as is often the case with the Packers, the event also became a celebration of the team's extraordinary relationship the Green Bay community and the region Rep. Jay Johnson (D-WI) represents.
"I'm sure everybody from Green Bay wanted to be on that stage because, more than any other team, the Packer fans, the community really feel close (them)," Johnson said.
That close relationship should be a model for all American sports, the President said.
"In a world where professional athletics, in sport after sports, seems more transient … The Green Bay Packers are something special, unique, old-fashioned, and heartwarming," Clinton said.
"There really is something special about the Green Bay Packer organization," added Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), one of members of Congress who attended the ceremony along with other members of the Washington elite with Wisconsin ties, including Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "The community involvement and the community commitment means something, and it works. And it's something I'd like see return to sports and our whole culture."
It was also an important day, politically, for Johnson, who brought a cheesehead (a foam hat shaped like a wedge of cheddar cheese), a commemorative coin and a piece of Lambeau Field for the President as symbolic gifts from the fans. Since the Packers' trip to the White House was guaranteed to lead every local news cast and be on the front page of every newspaper in Wisconsin, Johnson was assured to be included in the coverage.
"Obviously, as a first-term freshman, you're looking for every opportunity to let people know what you're doing, that you're involved" Johnson said. "You know, it's hard when you're in the minority party (and) you're a freshman to get a name, but when your team from your city has become the Super Bowl champs, it obviously helps."
Sometimes, though, the job of being a U.S. representative is simply that – representing the district at national events, Feingold said.
"Of course he should be here to recognize (the Packer victory). He's the congressmen from Green Bay" Feingold said. "These events are part of the life, but they are not the main thing. These are more of the enjoyable part. The real work is figuring out how to vote on issues and reading up on it."