Twenty-five years is not a particularly long time, even by American standards. A quarter-century is barely enough for a single generation to grow from infancy to adulthood–hardly an epoch in the annals of the republic. And yet in that blink of an eye, that snap of the fingers, the world can change on a multitude of levels.
Consider the shifts of the most recent quarter-century. In 1985, unless you were in the military, there were no cell phones, much less cell phones that took pictures. There were no iPods, no DVDs, and the first minivans were still under warranty. Some fixtures of American life have slipped beneath the waves since 1985–typewriters, card catalogs, long-distance bills–and we have grown accustomed to such new features as Google, bar codes, and Viagra.
From the technological to the pharmaceutical, these innovations are global in nature, but there have been equally impressive developments on the state level. Wisconsin has experienced transformative changes in the last quarter-century, tectonic shifts that have moved the state materially from its traditional base. Even 25 or 30 years ago, it was possible, if you didn’t look too closely, to maintain an image of Wisconsin rooted in the 19th century. For decades there were nearly as many cows as people in the state, and the standard postcard of America’s Dairyland was a bucolic scene of contented Holsteins grazing in spring-fed pastures under a clear blue sky.