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When I decided to run for governor I was trying to figure out what was going to be the symbol of my campaign and landed on the bridge.
The Mackinac Bridge is just a great symbol of Michigan. It was built at a time when we had a Democratic governor and Republican legislature, which is where we find ourselves now.
This is a coin from the day they opened the Mackinac Bridge. It is 61 years old. It’s got the bridge on one side and a quote from Gov. Gerhardt Mennen “Soapy” Williams on the other.
It says, “Built by the will of a great people upon foundations of Michigan’s faith in her future.”
I got it from a man whose father was very politically active. He sent me this 1958 coin his dad had saved and kept. His dad knew the governor, so he sent it to me.
Getting across the bridge is something I’ve done all my life. I never thought about it as much as when I was in the legislature and had the opportunity to tour the bridge. I actually went up to the top of the towers. You have to crawl through these little spaces and go up a tiny elevator and fire ladders.
At the top of the bridge is the most magnificent view of the upper and lower peninsulas. Where two great lakes meet is one of the most unique places in the world with the abundance of fresh water, beauty of our geography and our land.
This is when I really got interested on when it was built, how it was built and the stories around it. Bridging the Straits of Mackinac was a phenomenal feat. It is something we should really be proud of. It is still the largest suspension bridge in our hemisphere.
People didn’t think they could build the bridge — They even called it “Soapy’s folly.” It is something not many Michiganders even know about. But they worked together and did it. It connected our people and strengthened our economy. In a time when there is so much talk about dividing us building walls, building bridges together is a much better frame of mind and philosophy of what we need to do.
I’ve talked about this part of our history frequently. To have a piece from it is very cool. I was really grateful.
I won’t be able to keep it. It will be something we give to the people of the state of Michigan when I’m done being governor. It will be something that I will cherish, look upon and share with people while I am governor.
(This interview was edited and condensed by Dennis Burck. If you have a recommendation for “Favorite Things,” please email email@example.com.)