NOTE: See postnote about Hubert Humphrey at the end of this post.
Friday I decided to attend the Panel and Global Webinar “Living the Legacy of Hubert H. Humphrey” at the University of Minnesota Law School. The event celebrated the “35th Anniversary of Humphrey Fellowship Program..web-streamed for access by the other 15 Humphrey campuses and for Humphrey alumni around the world.” I expected an interesting program – previously I had attended the 25th anniversary in 2004 – but this years was particularly interesting.
The old history was recalled in a video by President Jimmy Carter (1977-81). The program was established in honor of Hubert Humphrey after his his death in 1978. In addition, Fridays program also recognized “the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Hubert H. Humphrey regarded the Act’s passage as a crowning achievement of his political career.” Seven of Humphreys family circle spoke as briefly as any Humphrey can speak (which is to say, 5 minutes means 10!) But everyone’s remarks were very interesting about their Dad, grandchild, uncle….
Two Humphrey alumni spoke (more a bit later).
Leading off the second panel was Bill Means, Lakota Elder and Board Member, International Indian Treaty Council.
(click on photos to enlarge)
Mr. Means, a powerful Native American leader, had just come from the Minneapolis City Council, which had just voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in Minneapolis. It was, he said, the culmination of 50 years of effort.
I was always aware of the American Indian Movement, but never an active part of it, but I recalled a May, 1990, Pow Wow I’d attended in Minneapolis, and a page of the program booklet from that day which I published in a newsletter I edited in the summer of 1990. It speaks for itself: Heart of the Earth My 90001
I had taken quite a few photos that day, 24 years ago. Here are two. I believe the lady in the wheelchair is the legendary Meridel LeSueur. The event apparently recognized The American Indian Movements Heart of the Earth Survival School
Mr. Means gave a short but powerful talk on April 25. He along with other powerful Native American leaders like Leonard Peltier, Dennis Banks, the Bellecourts and many others, brought attention to the native community ‘back in the day’ 50 or more years ago.
He said, I recall, that there are about 375,000,000 Indigenous Peoples in the world today. That would be about 5% of the worlds population, and more than the entire population of the United States.
Another speaker, Kaka Bag-ao, a Humphrey Fellow from 2006-07, powerfully talked about her post Humphrey career in the Philippines, including a powerful video of a 1700 kilometer (about 1000 miles) walk to Manila by many indigenous farmers successfully protesting seizure of their small farms for use as a golf course. At issue, it seemed, was 144 hectares of land – about 344 acres. The powerless got the attention of the powerful, but it wasn’t easy. Hopefully, I will be able to include the link to the video at this place soon.
Edmon Marukyan of Armenia (Fellow 2009-2010) had a similarly inspirational message to this and previous years Humphrey Fellows.
Among the many Humphrey family members, the one who impressed me the most was the youngest, Jordan Humphrey, Humphrey’s grandson. He was born a number of years after Humphrey died, and he’ll be a worthy representative of his grandfather.
It was a good day.
I’m glad I went.
POSTNOTE: About the time of the 25th anniversary of the Humphrey Fellows program in 2004, I came across an old recollection about Hubert Humphrey, and his reflections on politics, competition, and compassion. It became my 2004 Christmas message, and it can be read here. (The link is immediately after the painting at top of the page.)
The three visitors were visiting then-Senator and previously Vice-President Humphrey about compassion in politics. They recalled Humphrey saying this: “Senator Humphrey walked back to his desk, picked up a long pencil with a small eraser at its end, and said in his famous high-pitched voice, “Gentlemen, look at this pencil. Just as the eraser is only a very small part of this pencil and is used only when you make a mistake, so compassion is only called upon when things get out of hand. The main part of life is competition, only the eraser is compassion. It is sad to say, gentlemen, but in politics compassion is just part of the competition….”
Humphreys was a powerful message: it takes more than being compassionate to implement a policy of compassion. Politics, with all of its nastiness and competition, is a necessary part of the process of successfully implementing compassion. Walking the talk can be messy.
But Humphrey lived compassion through his deeds, not just his words.
One family member recalled that when HHH was nearing death, he made a point of calling his archrival, President Richard Nixon, urging Nixon to come out of self-imposed isolation and attend Humphreys funeral. Nixon had for a short time been Humphreys U.S. Senate colleague and later defeated Humphrey in the 1968 election, and resigned from the Presidency in 1974.
It was not mentioned, and I do not recall, if President Nixon came to the funeral in St. Paul, but the point is that the gesture was made. Humphreys “eraser” never hardened.
RESPONSE FROM LINEA PALMISANO, 13TH WARD REPRESENTATIVE, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL April 28:
Thank you for this message, Dick.
I took some time here to read your blog post.
Frankly, I worry that the way this has been “messaged” in the media, and even shown through your blog post about we have ‘changed’ the day for the city… we are adding to Columbus Day at this point, to add recognition of Indigenous Peoples. We haven’t changed it the way most people outright said. These small increments will take some time, and a part of me fears that the actual language of what was approved last Friday is not what a number of the public speakers in the indigenous communities have made it out to be. I hope that come October, folks don’t feel anyone has pulled the wool over their eyes, so to speak.
I really, really liked reading about the Humphrey event and your pencil message. I have written it down and taped it beneath my computer screen. “… it takes more than being compassionate to implement a policy of compassion. Politics, with all of its nastiness and competition, is a necessary part of the process of successfully implementing compassion. Walking the talk can be messy.”
Thanks for reaching out.
Yours in Service,