Last Dad’s Day was June 16, 2019. It was a very good day. This one promises to be as well. Of course, there will be big differences. One year ago none of us could have imagined COVID-19. The other major societal stresses impacting our lives today could have been imagined, but not with precision. This Father’s Day weekend has significant overlays that impact on all of us, Dad or otherwise. I wonder what it will be like a year forward from today.
I choose, this time in history, to focus on a letter to the editor I wrote a week or so ago. It was occasioned by twin photos of the two young mayors of the Twin Cities, Jacob Frey of Minneapolis, and Melvin Carter of St. Paul, during the recent unrest after the murder of George Floyd.
To this moment, the letter has not been printed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, nor have they contacted me, which means that it likely won’t see ink. The paper chose to print a column by a now long-ago politician, Norm Coleman. It is their own right to choose points of view, of course.
So, I choose to present my own letter here, for you to agree or disagree with. It is printed exactly as submitted, a bit of food for thought. I was young, once, and often, in much less stressful circumstances, I had to make decisions as the mayors did, without the wisdom of hind sight. We’ve all been there, done that.
Anyway, here’s my June 15, 2020, letter to Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“Your “Two Mayors” front page certainly attracted attention.
I’ve just entered the 9th decade of my life, most of my adult years living and working in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Personally, I think it is wonderful that young people are taking the reins of responsibility. Melvin Carter (41) and Jacob Frey (nearing 39) are half my age, but I applaud and thank them for their leadership during these trying times.
We elders had our opportunities, and certainly we have our right to second-guess and sidewalk superintend what is going on.
We might look back at the ages of the leaders we’ve known from years ago. Not only are Frey and Carter probably in their general age group, but they, too, made their mistakes, often due to the fact that they were also in the hot seat. Harry Truman popularized “the buck stops here” when he became President in 1945.
Mr. Truman was first elected to public office when he was 38. Take your pick of the politicians you love or loath – most have similar biographies.
Jacob and Melvin and their generation deserve our support and respect as they wrestle with impossible questions.“
Mr. Coleman was young once; so was I. The time is now for the new generation to fully take over; new faces of diverse sorts are desperately needed. Yes, they’ll make mistakes. So what else is new, for anyone who’s “been there, done that”?
Best wishes for success to the young and the others under- and mis-represented in our past.
Probably the best advice I ever heard about making a difference came from my friend, Rev. Verlyn Smith, some years before he died in 2012. A giant for peace and justice, Verlyn was a South Dakota farm boy, soft and plain-spoken. As it happened, his work as a Lutheran minister found him as a campus minister in California during the hottest times of the Vietnam war protests in the late 60s, early 70s. Verlyn was receiving an award one night in 2010 page 8), and I was in the room when he gave brief remarks. In my recollection, he said he went on the college assignment without much of a bent towards activism – that evolved over time. He got to thinking back to those days and was musing about student activism he had witnessed in California. As I vividly recall, he simply said words to this effect: “Almost all of the college kids back then were involved in being college kids working towards their degree, like now. Only perhaps 2% of them were the anti-war activists. The 2% were enough to make the difference.” That really stuck with me. It only takes some to make a difference. And there are many ways to make a difference. Find your niche.
POSTNOTE: We are living in troubled times, times that need activists. As it happens, the COVID-19 Crisis in our country coincided with an excellent workshop I was attending on racism, “Becoming Human”, in February, 2020. In the end, the entire program, through St. Thomas University, ended up on-line, accessible, free, to anyone. Here is the link (scroll down to “Becoming Human” under “Featured Resources”. There are six modules, approximately one hour each.)
And if you’re interested in Tulsa, today: here.
PBS Frontline had an excellent special on COVID-19 this week. It may be accessible on-line. Take a look.
COMMENTS (see other comments at end of the post as well):
from Donna: Thanks for your words Dick. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think both mayors are admirable in these uncertain times. I am very optimistic that we will come out a better country. What I still am baffled about is why black history is basically not taught in schools. I am astounded at how ignorant I was about Tulsa and past history. I was talking to my son last night and asked if he knew about Tulsa or some of the history we learned about in the first session at the Basilica. He took AP history in Hopkins schools taught by an African American. He said before last week he had not heard any of it. I just feel that until we start teaching all of America’s history including injustices to Native Americans we can not heal as a country. Happy Father’s Day.