Today I finished Carl Solberg’s biography of Hubert Humphrey. I figure if I’m going to be a Minnesotan, I need to bone up on the state’s history, politics, and culture (though it may be a while before I get up the courage to try lutefisk).

There’s a phrase from Humphrey’s 1948 speech to the Democratic National Convention that has stuck with me for years, and it’s referenced in the title of this post. We’ve heard much about human rights in the North Star State this past week, for obvious reasons. I think the Happy Warrior would be proud.

Also, this happened.

He's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.
He’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.

Sen. Franken gave the address at UMM’s Commencement on May 11. He shook every faculty member’s hand before the speech, and this picture was taken after the exercises. When he was talking to me and two fellow music faculty members, he remarked that the only class he had real trouble with was Music Theory, because “I couldn’t hear modulations. Plus, whenever you had to identify a piece of music by hearing it, if I didn’t know I’d just put ‘Streets of Laredo’ because I thought the professor might find it funny.”

I like it here. There are challenges, to be sure, but I like it here.


After the County Commissioner Candidate forum on Thursday, I’ve been thinking about the role of county government and elected officials. (This isn’t a new thing for me, as my older brother is a county commissioner back in Indiana. Every state is different, though.) Fortunately, the Minnesota Association of Counties has lots of good publications that can answer questions.

Why do I care so much about city council, school board, county commission and state legislature races? Here are a few reasons.

(1) These are the races where you can make the most contact with candidates and officials. It’s representative democracy in a nutshell. Each Stevens County commissioner represents about 2000 people. It is quite easy to meet your city councilmember or county commissioner and express your concerns.

(2) While what happens in Washington, DC clearly has a tremendous impact on what we do in our day-to-day lives, local and state government have equal if not greater impacts. It is important to know your local elected officials and where they stand on the local issues.

(3) In rural areas, counties have to provide many services that are taken for granted in urban areas. It is fascinating to watch the interplay between county and township vis-a-vis snow plowing, road management and economic development. And of course, access to mental health services, Meals on Wheels and other senior services, and local libraries/schools would usually devolve onto small towns and county government.

(4) Local elective office is the farm team for state and federal office. Many members of Congress got their start as local elected officials. Barack Obama was a state senator in Illinois before beginning his meteoric rise. Even as Congress becomes less responsive to local needs (a topic for another time, though I will say that a country of 300,000,000 deserves more than 435 representatives in what is allegedly the People’s House), we still like to see our Federal representatives with some legislative body experience.


I would like to make two endorsements for local races. I am going to work for both campaigns and am putting signs in my yard for both (in addition to my sign for John Schultz for State Senate).

Mike Odello is running for Morris Area School Board. Mike is a fellow lowbrassman, a teacher, a husband and father, and a really good cat who has lots of ideas how to keep our schools good as well as make them better.

Jay McNamar is running for the Minnesota House of Representatives, District 12A. Jay is a retired teacher, volunteer fire fighter, and is currently the Mayor of Elbow Lake up in Grant County. He understands what our rural communities are facing and offers real, positive solutions to the challenges of small towns. He will be an outstanding voice for west-central Minnesota in St. Paul.