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Writing My Congressman: Help From the Late Senator William Proxmire

Updated on November 26, 2021
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Paul was born and grew up in Wisconsin. He is married to a Thai and living in Thailand. He has Swiss, German, and Austrian ancestry.

The U.S. Senate

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The Power of Political Connections

The late Wisconsin Senator William "Bill" Proxmire was very instrumental in assisting my wife and me in the late 1970s. This happened on two occasions when I was first living in Taiwan, and then shortly after I had moved back to the United States. My mother first suggested and urged me to write to our congressman when my first wife was experiencing an immigration problem. Little did I realize at that time the power of political connections. After a brief biographical sketch of William Proxmire, this article recalls the great help provided by Senator Proxmire, and also the assistance of other congressmen to my acquaintances.

Biography of Senator William Proxmire

William "Bill" Proxmire, my home state congressman, was a United States senator from Wisconsin born in 1915 who served from August 28, 1957, until January 3, 1989. Proxmire graduated from Yale University in 1938 and received a Masters's from the Harvard Business School in 1940. During the Second World War, he was a member of the Military Intelligence Service.

After getting a second Masters's, Bill Proxmire moved to Wisconsin and became a reporter for the Capital Times in Madison to prepare for a career in politics. After serving in the Wisconsin State Assembly 1951-1952, Proxmire was an unsuccessful candidate for Wisconsin governor in 1952, 1954, and 1956. However, in a special election to fill the term vacated by the death of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Proxmire was elected senator for the first time on August 28, 1957. My father was working at Allis Chalmers in a suburb of Milwaukee at the time, and I can remember how he talked about shaking "Bill" Proxmire's hand during the election campaign.

During his long career in the Senate, William Proxmire was reelected senator five times by very wide margins. Known as a critic of the Vietnam War, Proxmire refused to take campaign contributions. He was famous for issuing Golden Fleece Awards which identified what he considered wasteful government spending between 1975 and 1988.

Proxmire was married twice in his life. In 1946 he married Elsie Rockefeller, the great-granddaughter of William Rockefeller, the brother, and partner of oil baron John Rockefeller. Proxmire's second marriage was in 1956. This biographical information is taken from Wikipedia.

Eyewitness Testimony: Senator William Proxmire

Writing to Senator Proxmire

I wrote to "Bill" Proxmire for assistance twice during the late 1970s. The first occasion was precipitated by the handling of my first wife's immigration status by the old Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The second occasion was seeking help for government employment opportunities.

1. My First Wife's Immigration Matter

My former Taiwanese wife entered the United States for the first time on an immigration visa in July of 1978. According to regulations, the INS should have sent my wife an alien permanent residence card (green card) within a short time after we returned to Taiwan following a two-week trip to my parents in Wisconsin. We anxiously awaited five or six months for the green card with no news from the INS. At this point, my mother suggested that I write to Senator Proxmire who was known for actively helping his constituents resolve problems with the bureaucracy. After writing Proxmire and explaining the problem that my wife needed the green card to reenter the U.S. a few months later, INS sent out the green card and we received it within a month. Without the prodding and intervention of the senator, I doubt that we would have received the green card that quickly.

2. Requesting Help for Government Employment Opportunities

In July of 1979, I permanently returned to the U.S. from Taiwan with my family. After spending the first few months unsuccessfully getting a job related to my chemistry college major, I was only able to obtain part-time work as a security guard and an ESL tutor. If I were to adequately provide for my family, it was going to be necessary to get a full-time job. Realizing that my previous Chinese training and Navy intelligence experience could be beneficial, I wrote to Senator Proxmire again for government employment opportunities with my most recent education and Navy experience.

To my surprise, within one or two weeks, the office of Senator Proxmire sent me a big manila envelope loaded with potential job opportunities with organizations such as the State Department, CIA, Voice of America, and the NSA. Having been a member of the Military Intelligence Service during World War II, Proxmire was certainly very familiar with my case. To make a long story short, I applied to all four organizations and eventually was extended a job offer from the NSA.

Acquaintances Writing to Congressmen

I have not been the only person successful in getting assistance from a Congressman. Some of my former acquaintances have written to Congressmen and senators with good results. One of my former Chinese teachers who is a U.S. permanent resident wrote to Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski who aided the teacher in resolving her son's immigration matter. While I was in the Navy, I recall that one of my shipmates wrote to South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond and was able to obtain assistance.

Writing a congressman or senator for assistance can be very beneficial when the bureaucracy is slow or negligent in doing its job. Just remember that you elect and send your congressman to Washington to serve you.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn

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