March, 2013 browsing by month


#705 – Dick Bernard: The Beginning of the Pontificate of Pope Francis. One Catholics View at Easter 2013.

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Being an active Catholic, I was interested in who the new Pope would be after the resignation of Benedict XVI.

By happenstance, the day of the Pope’s election, March 13, I was in Florida. I was on a tour bus with Grandson Ryan and his friend Caleb, at the Kennedy Space Center. The cell phone rang and Cathy, my wife, said a Pope had been elected. The phone connection was bad, so I got little information.

As such elections go, this papal election was rather rapid. I didn’t pay much attention to who’s in the running: apparently, at least to my knowledge, the elected Pope was not on the prognosticators short list. He turned out to be of Italian lineage, and an Argentinian, and the first Pope from the western Hemisphere.

Three days later, visiting a friend in Clearwater FL area, I said I’d like to go to the Cathedral in Tampa to see what they had to say about the new Pope. My friend isn’t Catholic, and he selected an ordinary parish church; it turned out the Tampa Bay area Cathedral is in St. Petersburg. But by happy accident I ended up in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a Franciscan parish in downtown Tampa, on March 17, and Pastor Fr. George gave a wonderful homily about this new Pope who took the name of Francis of Assisi. The bulletin included a column Fr. George had written the day prior to the Pope’s election. It too is interesting: Fr. George Col Mar 12 13001

(click to enlarge photos)

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, downtown Tampa, FL

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, downtown Tampa, FL

Fr. George, March 17, 2013

Fr. George, March 17, 2013

The Church Bulletin for that Sunday had a full-page article on “Francis of Assisi: A Sacramental View of Nature”. (That column, and many other columns about Saint Francis, can be found here. Anyone interested in getting a sense of the new Pope’s inclinations would benefit from reading these essays.

As for the collective “Catholic” attitude towards the new Pope, I felt Fr. George “hit the nail on the head” early on in his homily. He recalled two bumper stickers from the time Benedict XVI was elected as Pope a few years ago. One simply said: “God’s Rottweiler”; the other, as simple, said “The Cafeteria is Closed”.

Of course the first comes from the left-wing of Catholicism: those who felt that Benedict would be the authoritarian enforcer; the other comes from the right-wing, who despise what some call “cafeteria Catholics”, who allegedly pick and choose what teachings to obey.

Then, of course, there’s everyone in between.

Anyone who attempts to typecast the “typical” Catholic is on a fools errand.

As for Pope Francis, my guess is that the “Rottweiler” faction is worried, and the “Cafeteria” faction more hopeful.

No Pope can truly be said to be in control of anything any more. There is no papal enforcement mechanism. To my knowledge, Church and State are nowhere conjoined as a single entity these days. Catholicism is a significant but still small minority of the World population; and however bulked up the numbers, the American Catholic Church is less than one-fourth of the population. And as I’ll see at Basilica of St. Mary today, at Easter Mass, the Catholics who enter the door are a motley crew, including many who will leave after Mass, not to return again until the Christmas Mass nine months from now.

The Pope does set the tone for we Catholics. And he is at minimum the official figurehead.

From early indications, and from my own personal perspective, Pope Francis is a good choice, and the Church will be the better for his becoming the Pontiff.

There could be far worse models for the Catholic Church than St. Francis of Assisi.

And a brief PS:

I did search out the real Cathedral of Tampa, which was St. Jude in St. Petersburg. I arrived there after the last Mass, and had coffee and a donut. The Church is under reconstruction, and I didn’t hear any message, including nothing in the Church bulletin, about the new Pope.

St. Jude's, St. Petersburg Fl. under reconstruction

St. Jude’s, St. Petersburg Fl. under reconstruction

At St. Jude's Mar 17, 2013

At St. Jude’s Mar 17, 2013

UPDATE: After 9:30 Mass Easter Sunday.

The above content is as written last evening.

As usual, I ushered this morning at Basilica. Large crowds are expected at the Christmas and Easter Masses, but this mornings crowd was exceptional, above expectations. The Church was near full a half hour before Mass time, and the large overflow area also ended up very crowded. Both the sanctuary and undercroft were standing room only to the limit.

Undercroft at Basilica Easter, March 31, 2013

Undercroft at Basilica Easter, March 31, 2013

Unbeknownst to me, the local Archbishop said the Mass and gave the homily (sermon). In authoritative mode, our Abp. is not a very friendly appearing type. His hope message included a usual complaint from him, about government interference with his notion of religious freedom (a complaint, I am guessing, most Catholics don’t share.) In my opinion, our Archbishop is more on the Rottweiler fringe…. Recently a friend sent a commentary about Abps style that I found most interesting. It is here.

Abp Nienstedt March 31, 2013

Abp Nienstedt March 31, 2013

As the transition period continues (for some years, I would guess), there will be a sorting out of roles and authority between the local diocesan heads (Bishops et al) and the new Pope. Changes will be gradual, and more likely imperceptible unless considered from a long term view. In a sense, the Papal transition is somewhat similar to the election of a new President of the United States: incorrect assumptions are made about dramatic and instant sea-changes at time of change in power at the top. Rarely if ever is this so, unless precipitated by some calamitous event, such as President Kennedy’s assassination. The change, whatever it will be (and I think there will be change), will be gradual, but very noticeable.

After Easter Mass, while I was distributing church bulletins (we call them newsletters), a young woman came up to me and asked “who was the man who gave the sermon?” I said, “Archbishop Nienstedt”. “Oh”, she said, and off she went.

Except in his closer circles, the Archbishop is not part of the ordinary household vocabulary.

At one point a long-time friend and I, also active in the parish, speculated about the extraordinary attendance this particular Easter day. She thought it might be the attendance of the Archbishop. I speculated it might have something to do with the newly installed Pope in Rome. “I hope so”, she responded. I share her notion of hope.

Such is how the conversations within our Church begin in this first month in the reign of Pope Francis.

From early indications, Pope Francis will not be timid, and a cookie-cutter imitation of his immediate predecessors.

For me, that is a good thing.

Directly related, here.

#704 – Dick Bernard: “You oughta go tah, Nor Dakota…”*

Friday, March 29th, 2013

* – Once upon a time, the North Dakota promotional anthem (at least as I remember it). I can hum it still. Wish it were on YouTube….
But the title “masks” a more serious message, today.

Recently, within a day or two of each other, came two links: one from a present day and lifelong North Dakotan; the other from a born and raised, but many years out-of-state North Dakota native.

Here is one, an article and photo album from The Atlantic magazine about the oil boom in western North Dakota.

I’ve seen quite a number of articles, photos and commentaries about the second boom in ND’s Williston Basin (I lived there, at Ross as an 8th grader, in 1953-54, so experienced mostly the down-side of it, then). I wonder, often, about the true “cost-benefit analysis” of the boom: there are big (money) benefits, yes, but what are the short and long-term and huge costs, not just in money terms….

The below photo is the other, following by a day the North Dakota legislature and Governors action outlawing abortion, deliberately pushing the envelope on the matter of State’s Rights (one would presume) 40 years after Roe v. Wade.


Both the article and the photo come from fellow alumni of Valley City State Teachers College ca 1960-62.

Both the article and the photo, in my opinion, illustrate that all is not all that simple in the state of my birth, my home for all but 28 months (21 of those in the U.S. Army) of my first 25 years of life.

I’ve been absent from North Dakota for the last 48 years, but North Dakota is a very big part of me. The first family member saw the Missouri River at Bismarck with Gen. Sibley’s forces in 1863; my descendants have lived in what was to become North Dakota since 1878.

When I began this blog in 2009, I decided to include two photos on the home page. One is of a North Dakota country road between Berlin and Grand Rapids and my uncle and aunts beloved dog Sam (dec 1995).

The other (below), looking north from Hawk’s Nest west of Carrington ND, was taken at the time of the Sykeston community reunion in July, 2008, also the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation from Sykeston High School.

(click to enlarge)

From Hawk's Nest, July 2008

From Hawk’s Nest, July 2008

Photos, it is often said, speak thousands of words.

The landscape from Hawk’s Nest is the North Dakota I remember. The billboard above, likely a creation of photo shop technology, has a far more harsh message about North Dakota in this Easter week, 2013.

The billboard “photo” speaks its own volumes.

Early this week the North Dakota legislature passed, and the Governor signed, one of the most draconian anti-abortion measures ever passed anywhere in the country. There are thousands of words, including the Governors own, about the intention of these laws and the upcoming citizens initiative in the state of North Dakota. The months ahead will determine the wisdom – or stupidity – or unbridled arrogance – of North Dakota’s elected leadership.

The people will decide.

What the folks at the capitol building in Bismarck may not have adequately considered, however, is that most of we North Dakotans by birth and upbringing, no longer live in North Dakota, and may have our own stories, and our own ability to impact on the decision making in the state that we may not, now, physically live; but whose geography and history lives on in each of us.

This goes for me as well.

I left North Dakota in May, 1965, for a very simple reason: my wife was dying. In fact, she died at the University of Minnesota Hospital two months after we crossed the North Dakota-Minnesota line. Three days before she died I had signed a contract for a new job in the Twin Cities, and except for visits, I have not gone back to my “home state”.

But I do go back every year, and will, again, go back in May.

My heart is always there, in North Dakota.

But, back in 1965, only two months before I left North Dakota, the possibility of abortion needed to cross the minds of Barbara and I. I wrote about how this came to be in one of my early blog posts, which has a simple heading “Abortion”, and was filed in October, 2009. You can read it here.

Even then, we had no available legal options.

Today, I can add a small financial “voice” to the upcoming struggle in ND, and will do so; and I am still deciding what to convey to the ND Governor and Legislators representing the many towns that I lived in back then, including Elgin, from which my wife left in an ambulance near the end of May, 1965.

Gov. Dalrymple and the prevailing legislators may consider themselves to be clothed with great authority.

The people will speak….

I’d ask you to consider passing this commentary along to others.

#703 – Dick Bernard: “Filing Cabinet” for The Hennepin Co Plaza United Nations Flag Issue

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

POSTNOTE: The primary originating document is the blogpost for March 5, 2013, which is accessible here. Added material is dated.


UPDATE September 17, 2014: Relevant and current documents about this issue:
1. A 20+ page pdf of documents related to this issue can be viewed here: UN Flag Henn Co MN001 (pp 1-22). The first page lists the documents which follow. Inadvertently, 4 USC par 10, the intended final page, is not included. Accessible here: Flag Code Sec 10 (p. 23).
Two flag photos below were referenced, and sent to, Hennepin Commissioners with August 12, 2014 letter.
2. Sep 11 and 17, 2014 correspondence: Henn UN Flag Sep 17 14 (pp 24-30).

HISTORY DOCUMENTS, 1965-2013: UN flag Mpls Historical001

Flags at U.S. Bank Plaza, Minneapolis MN, Sep. 17, 2014.  Hennepin Government Center in background.  Four of the six flags appear to be corporate flags, along with U.S. and Minnesota.  All flagpoles appear to be identical in height.

Flags at U.S. Bank Plaza, Minneapolis MN, Sep. 17, 2014. Hennepin Government Center in background. Four of the six flags appear to be corporate flags, along with U.S. and Minnesota. All flagpoles appear to be identical in height.

The American flag in procession with others at International Day, Concordia Language Villages, Bemidji MN, August 8, 2014

The American flag in procession with others at International Day, Concordia Language Villages, Bemidji MN, August 8, 2014

July 23, 2014, at Truck Stop near St. Cloud MN

July 23, 2014, at Truck Stop near St. Cloud MN


(Click to enlarge any photo)

Where the United Nations Flag used to fly before being removed after March 27, 2012.  Photo taken May 7, 2013

Where the United Nations Flag used to fly before being removed after March 27, 2012. Photo taken May 7, 2013

To the best of our knowledge, UN Flag had flown continuously at the Hennepin Plaza site for 44 years, from May 1, 1968, forward.
The 2012 vote was unanimous – all seven Commissioners present on March 27, 2012 voting yes (unless otherwise indicated, all Commissioners (bold-faced) remain on the Board as of August 14, 2014.)

Commissioner Opat Moved adoption
Commissioner Stenglein Seconded the motion*
Commissioner Dorfman**
Commissioner Randy Johnson
Commissioner Callison
Commissioner McLaughlin***
Commissioner Jeff Johnson***
* – Commissioner Stenglein appointed CEO of Minneapolis Downtown Council in February, 2012, starting new job on June 1, 2012; in June, 2013, Stenglien left the Downtown Council position for unknown reasons (news article here).
** – Commissioner Dorfman resigned as Commissioner in Feb. 2014 to take another position.
*** – in the posted Minutes for 3-27-01 these individuals are listed as not present; but the official record of the meeting shows them both voting Yes on the motion.

Commissioner Linda Higgins was elected to Stenglien’s Hennepin County Commission seat in the November, 2012 election and thus had no involvement in the original action.

I wrote at length on the issue on March 5, 2013 here.

Friday April 12, 2013, I hand-delivered two letters to all Hennepin County Commissioners, and the uninvolved in the issue but nonetheless parties at interest, the Mayor and City Council of Minneapolis. The relevant portions of the letters is here: Henn Comm Ltrs 4:12:13001 As of July 15, 2013, there have been zero responses to my questions. A third request for the information was mailed on July 13.

The listing of all Hennepin County Commissioners, their districts, and office addresses can be found here.

Here’s a photo of the flags at Hennepin County Government Plaza taken Tuesday April 9, 2013, from the same steps where Gov. Elmer L. Andersen spoke May 1, 1968, on the virtues of World Citizenship and flying the flag of the United Nations at the Plaza.

Flags on Hennepin County Government Plaza April 9, 2013

Flags on Hennepin County Government Plaza April 9, 2013


Former Governor Elmer L. Andersen’s speech at the United Nations Flag Raising at the Minneapolis City Hall May 1, 1968: Elmer Andersen I Trust..001

Timeline of Historical Events in the year 1968: 1968 Timeline001

The Hennepin Co Plaza flags as seen from inside Minneapolis City Hall April 12, 2013

The Hennepin Co Plaza flags as seen from inside Minneapolis City Hall April 12, 2013

UPDATE April 2, 2013: United States, Minnesota and United Nations flags et al, at Fairview Southdale Hospital, France at Hiway 62, Edina, April 1, 2013
(click to enlarge)

One year ago today – March 27, 2012 – the Hennepin County Board quietly passed Resolution No. 12-0167, rescinding Resolution 86-7-539 and directing “to fly at the Government Center North Plaza solely the flags of the United States, Minnesota and Hennepin County, in compliance with the U.S. Flag Code.”

I wrote at length on the issue on March 5, 2013. That commentary is accessible here. In that commentary I noted on March 5 that “I’m still searching for more facts” on the U.S. Flag Code, and contemporaneous with my column I wrote my Congresswoman and both MN U.S. Senators seeking more definitive information on the legislative history of that Code.

Sen. Franken’s office was first to respond to my request, with 40 pages of information, including the Congressional Research Service (CRS) document on the United States Flag prepared by John R. Luckey, Legislative Attorney, February 7, 2011. (Citation on the cover: Congressional Research Service 7-5700 RL30243). Two pages of this report included highlighted sections (see attached pdf U.S. Flag Code (portion)001). In addition, a dozen pages of Legislative Documents were included, including this statement by then ND Sen William Langer, May 12, 1953: Flag Code (1953 Langer 001. Also received, another dozen pages of Congressional Record entries between January and June, 1953 Flag Code (1953 Cong) 001. All of these pages are included.

Some personal observations, at this point:

1. Whoever initially advised Hennepin County Commissioners on the U.S. Flag Code in 2012 was speaking opinion and not fact:
A. The Section of the code cited, 7, relates to the flag “when carried in a procession with another flag….
B. In addition, the CRS analyst notes later that aforementioned Section 7 contains two subsections on point and these provisions appear to be contradictory (Subsections 7(c) and 7(g).

2. In reading the assorted documents, including the rhetoric in the Congressional Record, I noted these facts:
A. The Flag Code was originally passed June 22, 1942
B. The amendments to the flag bill, particularly relating to the United Nations flag, were first proposed on August 22, 1951, in the 82d Congress. They were ultimately passed in the 83d Congress in the Spring of 1953.
C. The key legislative actors at the time appear to be these: U.S. Sens Martin, Hendrickson, Knowland and Langer; Reps Reed (Illinois), Gross and McDonough.
D. The bill finally passed apparently included this language: “(b) Whoever knowingly violates the provision of this section shall be fined not more than $250 of imprisoned not more than six months, or both.” (Flag Code (1953 S 694) 001) To my knowledge, no such penalty language remains in the Flag Code, and apparently has not appeared there for many years.

3. I am old enough to remember well the post-WWII days of the police action in Korea, Sen. Joe McCarthy…. I was a teenager in rural ND when the 1953 amendment was passed. There was near hysteria, then, about allegations of “Communists”, including additional animosity towards the very existence of the United Nations. What happened in Hennepin County a year ago has all the appearances of a latter day manifestation of the same paranoia that caused our country so much grief in the Sen. McCarthy era.

It appears that the Hennepin County Board made its decision March 27, 2012, on at minimum incomplete information, perhaps without any debate. All but one of the Board members who approved the initial action remain on the Board, and it is time to reopen this file, and give the issue of the United Nations flag the dignified and public hearing it deserves.

POSTNOTE: As noted in the March 5 column, I had not paid much attention to flags, generally, including their arrangement, etc. This has changed. Recently I spent some time at a hotel in Orlando FL. The hotel is part of a world-wide chain, and I noted the flags out front: the U.S. flag, posted slightly higher than the Florida flag, with the Corporate flag in equal standing to the Florida flag. Flags do carry a message about us….

Here they are (click to enlarge):

Hotel, Orlando FL, March 24, 2013

Hotel, Orlando FL, March 24, 2013

Flags at Lincoln Center Elementary School, South St Paul MN Apr 16, 2013

Flags at Lincoln Center Elementary School, South St Paul MN Apr 16, 2013


NOTE MAY 3, 2013: This page is the permanent “filing cabinet” for information about the events which began March 5, 1968, with the Declaration of World Citizenship by the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County.

On World Law Day Wednesday, May 1, 2013, the Minneapolis Star Tribune carried two commentaries directly related to World Law Day and the United Nations Flag, written by Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg of and Minneapolis resident Jim Nelson. The United Nations Association of Minnesota is on record about this issue: UNA Position001

The evening of May 1, at Gandhimahal Restaurant in Minneapolis, 40 attended a dinner celebrating World Law. Here is a blogpost written about the event.

UPDATE August 20, 2013: Correspondence between a Henn. County Commissioner and Dick Bernard: HennComm08162013001

UPDATE September 11, 2013 here.

UPDATE December 19, 2013: Dec. 11, 2013, I sent the following to the Hennepin County Commissioners: Henn Comm Dec 11 13001 The mailing included the Dec 11, 2013, letter (in original misdated Nov 11, 2013) plus the Dec. 29, 2012, letter. In early November, 2013, I was made aware of a 1965 Declaration of World Citizenship signed by President Lyndon Johnson which directly relates to this issue. The post about that Declaration is here.

UPDATE June 14, 2014: My blog post for June 14 makes reference, and links, to this issue and post. I haven’t raised my question with the County Commissioners for some months, but will again.

#702 – Dick Bernard: “Each one, reach two”

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

It has been two weeks since my last post. In my world, this means either a computer problem or, in this case, that I was away from computer for the last two weeks. This is my one small act of defiance to the internet: when I’m away from home, I’m away from computer. No smartphone, no laptop….

Freedom, blessed freedom (though sometimes it would have been nice to tune in….)!

My time away was spent wandering around Florida, from being with grandkids, to visiting relatives, to doing a workshop, to visiting with friends. I was from west coast to east coast and within a few miles of Orlando; and Clearwater’s Honeymoon Island; to near Ft. Lauderdale.

I drove across the interior of Florida – away from freeways (and, it almost seemed) away from motels.

Thank goodness for Okeechobee!

Gladys' Restaurant in Okeechobee FL

Gladys’ Restaurant in Okeechobee FL


I was largely separated from newspapers, radio and television, and didn’t miss it. I spent several hours on a boat on the Gulf Coast side of the state; and made several visits to Kennedy Space Center/Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and even the intriguing town of Cape Canaveral…and even saw a satellite launch on March 19 (“Atlas V carries a missile-warning craft into orbit”).

There’s a great deal to muse about, but my first thoughts zero in on organizing around most anything; about each one, reaching two (or more, but starting with a reasonable goal of two new people).

“Each one reach two” is a long-brewing thought I’ve had. In Florida, it resurfaced in a elementary school music program near the shore of Indian River across from Merritt Island, and within a few miles of Kennedy Space Center; and a community peace initiative at Tarpon Springs (the famous Greek Sponge gathering town); and elsewhere as well. But mostly “Each One Reach Two” came to life at Fairglen Elementary….

(click to enlarge)

The Fairglen Elementary Music Concert March 20, 2013

The Fairglen Elementary Music Concert March 20, 2013

There was no reason for me to even know there was a concert at this school on the evening of March 20.

Neither was there a reason for my hosts to be there. They had other plans, and had no children in the school.

Enter one of the girls you can see in the front row of the chorus (above).

She is their neighbor, and she mentioned the concert to them once, and then specifically invited them to attend again.

There was no alternative decision for them to make!

And what a delightful change in plans it was. It was only thirty minutes of concert, with the usual gathering hubbub at such events, sitting at lunchroom tables or, as we were, in the standing room only category.

Part of audience at Fairglen Elementary

Part of audience at Fairglen Elementary

This young lady sold us on choosing her option.

By doing some personal salespersonship – asking for our attendance – she had reached not only two others, but a third person, me.

And we were all the better for it.

So, if it was easy for the young person to ask, why is it so hard for we adults to do the same, about issues important to us?

Yes, I know, there are endless excuses (I have plenty myself).

But I’m hoping to begin a Facebook group, “Each One, Reach Two”, and I invite you to like it, to join. (It’s not there yet; I have to figure it out.)

Facebook page or no, there’s no admission charge to “Each One Reach Two”; no issue of mine you need to take on; nothing other than your informal commitment to do something about something you care about, perhaps taking a little risk, outside your normal boundaries.

That’s what I re-learned in Florida from that young person in the front row at the concert.

Related posts:

The Ask: A brief lesson on selling an idea.

Uncomfortable Essays: Consider reading #1 and #2, pages 3-7.

A Million Copies (note the Margaret Mead and Gandhi quotes at top and bottom of the page.) A tribute to two ordinary persons who are continuing to make a difference.

Community Peace Initiative relating to such topics as anti-bullying in Tarpon Springs, Florida.  I was drawn in by a garden full of handmade Peace Flags in a community pocket-park.

Community Peace Initiative relating to such topics as anti-bullying in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I was drawn in by a garden full of handmade Peace Flags in a community pocket-park.

#701 – Dick Bernard: Personal Lessons Learned (and re-learned) at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Events like the recent Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College are extraordinarily difficult to plan and then implement (let’s say “stage manage”). You don’t want the advertised event to be advertised to start at 11 a.m., only to have it begin at 11:45, etc.

In all respects, the Forum was impeccably planned.

Having said that, my most important learnings from such events tend most often to come from side-events that cannot be factored in to the planning. Here I want to list some that come immediately to mind. (None of these are unique; at the same time, they are good reminders….)

Dr. Paul Farmer’s autograph line: I had never met Paul Farmer, nor heard him speak in person, so his talk was a must-see, and it made sense to get an autograph. I got in the line at 4:30, and 4 1/2 hours later found myself, finally, at arms length from Dr. Farmer, with the four books I had brought along.

Turns out that Dr. Farmer walks the talk of his essential message, that “without equity and justice there cannot be peace.” His reasoning, I gather, is that if somebody cares enough to want his autograph, they have a right to expect some of his time.

I think most of us came to realize this, after facing a seemingly eternal wait.

I met some people in that line who I would not have met before, had we been shuffled ahead rapidly to get our ten seconds with the author (“next, please”).

But the most important learning was about patience, and our general lack of it in our society. And thinking of those peasants in Haiti who stood in line for hours, after hours more walking, to vote for their candidate Aristide, without any certainty that they would even be able to cast a ballot at all. Or more directly to the point, remembering when we visited Farmer’s Zanmi Lasante Hospital at Cange, and saw the very long line of very sick people waiting for just the possibility of getting some medical help for an ailment that was probably about to kill them. Some had been there for, perhaps, days.

Then, that line to get a signature on a book didn’t seem so long at all.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

Finally, after 9 p.m., the autograph...and an opportunity for conversation with Dr. Farmer

Finally, after 9 p.m., the autograph…and an opportunity for conversation with Dr. Farmer

A short conversation with a College-age friend: Some weeks ago I got an out-of-the-blue e-mail from a young man who I’d met at the 2010 Peace Prize Festival. He was, then, an exchange student from a foreign country. He re-introduced himself to me at the Forum, and in our brief chat said he had not gone home after high school because it was deemed to be too dangerous for him. We didn’t have time to fill in the blanks, but we didn’t need to, either.

With all of our complaining about this, that and the other, the United States is still a mecca for those seeking relative peace and freedom. There are LOTS of warts, and we are responsible for plenty of instability elsewhere, but we need to build on our positives.

Tawakkol Karman and interpreter

Tawakkol Karman and interpreter

Listening to Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman (You can watch/listen on-line here: I found it a bit difficult to get into Ms Karman’s Laureate address at the end of the Conference. Formal public speaking did not yet seem to be her forte, yet, (give her a little time) and, I suppose, she didn’t have a raft of what I would call “Mother Theresa one-liners”.

While she spoke and understood English very well, it was her personal preference to speak in her native Arabic (which I applaud). We English speakers are used to being the dominant language, but by no means is English the only world language. Others are proud of their languages too – we are a richer world for such diversity. (Here you can find Dr. Joseph Schwartzbergs effort to demonstrate 41 different languages affirming human oneness. Dr. Schwartzberg was at Mrs. Karman’s talk.)

Towards the end of her formal remarks Ms Karman began a song – a chant – that had ignited the peaceful revolution in Yemen for which she won the Peace Prize. She seemed to become more alive, and the crowd alive with her. It was dramatic and it was very, very powerful.

It brought to life a piece of advice I heard in a eulogy for a friend at his recent funeral. He had been an English teacher, and he taught some writing. His advice to fearful writers was simple: “write what you know, and write from the heart”. Ms Karman spoke what she knew, but it was when she truly spoke from the heart that she was truly speaking.

Robin Wright

Robin Wright

Robin Wrights message: I wasn’t sure what to expect from Robin Wright. Turned out that her familiarity with the Middle East and North Africa went back as far as 1973.

Her analysis of the drivers in the contemporary Islamic World (which you can also hear/see on-line here), was extremely interesting. Succinctly, you don’t make change today by doing things the way the old men did them, and the old women understood and accepted them. She listed drivers of change in the Islamic region that the previously dominant leaders do not understand as drivers: theater, even comic books.

Come to think of it, that dynamic of change does not stop at national or ethnic boundaries, and the old men used to ruling, including in our society, are running scared.

Nonetheless, the transition from Arab Spring to a new reality will be rocky and difficult. True, deep change is hard, a process to a hoped for destination.

Somebody asked, would there be a woman president in that region? Robin observed that there has never been a woman U.S. president, and that in many respects the Islamic world is far ahead of us in this respect. Even the most repressive regimes need to pay attention to the women.

Finally (only because I’m out of time to do this), the composition of the audience was very interesting.

There were many young people – doubtless heavy on university students, but nonetheless taking a weekend at a conference, and definitely engaged in the proceedings. There is (in my opinion) a disconnect between what I would call the traditional peace and justice community and today’s kids. There needs to be much attention to build relationships and learn how to communicate with each other. I think the responsibility for this change lies primarily with the elders, and that we need to go more than half way…the old ways, especially in communication, are changing too rapidly. Failing to find common understandings about many things will weaken an ever more crucial movement.

#700 – Dick Bernard: the 25th Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College, Minneapolis MN. The Power of Ideas: People and Peace

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

UPDATE: Additional thoughts written on March 11, here.

Some photos are included at the end of this post. Click on any photo to enlarge.)

Some of the audience at one of the 35 Seminars at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Some of the audience at one of the 35 Seminars at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum

My colleague blogger, Grace Kelly, asked me as we were leaving the Forum today, if I planned to write about the last three days.


Then comes the real problem: how to summarize a very rich three days into a few words, when I had to miss some portions of the first two days, and when I was there, there were often far too many options….

Augsburg solved a good part of my problem: the major addresses were all live-streamed world-wide, and are already accessible on-line, and some other portions of the program were also video’d. The segments are listed here in reverse order shown at the website. Together they are a dozen hours or so of unedited video, which you can watch at leisure. Take your time. I’d suggest bookmarking this post and coming back to it from time to time. Take all the talks in, one at a time.

Recommendation: watch at least the first ten minutes or so of each video, including the introduction of the speaker, to get an idea of the speakers expertise and thrust. Pick and choose as you wish. But don’t stop there. For just one example, the power of Tawakkol Karman – what would motivate me to give her the Peace Prize were I the judge – shone through in the last ten minutes. Someone you thought dismiss at first may be very interesting and turn out to be absolutely fascinating, or their issue compelling.

Here is the bio information on the speakers, as listed in the Program: 2013 Augsburg NPPF001. (Nina Easton, Lois Quam and Peter Agre presentations were apparently not filmed, or there may be technical or proprietary reasons they are not on-line.)

10 and 11 (in this order) NPPF Festival Parts one and two (The Nobel Peace Prize Festival, for and involving about 1000 5th through 8th grade students from the Twin Cities. Both Nobel Laureates Muhammad Yunus and Tawakkol Karman speak to the students in this segment, as does Andrew Slack of the Harry Potter Alliance. Music provided by Cowern Elementry, No. St. Paul MN; Valley Crossing Community School, Woodbury; Burroughs Elementary School, Minneapolis. Editorial: One has to be having a really, really bad day to not enjoy the annual Festival!

9. Business Day Opening. Muhammad Yunus 2006 Nobel Peace Prize (Laureate Yunus talk begins at app. 42 mins.)

8. Food Security Panel. Chris Policinski, President and CEO of Land O’Lakes; David MacLennan, President and CEO, Cargill, Inc; Jeff Simmons, President, Elanco, moderated by Frank Sesno, Director, School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.

7. Development, Humanitarianism and the Power of Ideas. Erik Schwartz, Dean and Professor, and Brian Atwood, Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs University of Minnesota.

6. Sex and War: Doomed or Liberated by Biology. Malcolm Potts, Bixby Professor of Population and Family Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. (intro begins at 12 mins.)

5. Dr. Paul Farmer, Co-founder of Partners in Health and chair of the Department of global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (intro begins at 12 minutes). Since 1983 Dr. has devoted his life to public service to those who have least to offer in return, particularly in Haiti and Rwanda, but worldwide as well.

4. Hip Hop evening featuring Omar Offendum, Syrian-American, and Brother Ali Begins with intro at 13 mins, and artist appears at 17 minutes.

3. Robin Wright, Senior Fellow, US Institute of Peace. Focus on the Islamic world of the Arab Spring. Begins at 21 mins.

2. The Woman Behind the Nobel Peace Prize, Bertha von Suttner. speaker Anne Synneve Simensen. Begins at 12 minutes

1. 2011 Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman of Yemen (NPPF Closing. Intro starts at about 18 minutes.)

The address by Nina Easton does not yet appear to be on-line.

High Points and Low Points of the Forum?

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum is a truly high-class operation. There were no “low points”. One might have preferences, and it is impossible to attend most of the available sessions…but I give the event and the speakers – all of them – high marks. They were all unique. As is true with anyone in any audience at any program, each offering resonates in different ways to different folks. This only adds to the richness.

With its international live-streaming of major talks, the Forum is accessible to and becoming known world-wide, and can only grow ever more important as an international networking opportunity for those interested in the very complicated issue of Peace in our ever more complicated world.

In many ways, everyone whose name was on the “marquee” at the Forum has paid the high price of leadership. The conference theme,”The Power of Ideas”, has real meaning. The speakers have been “on the court”, and not the sidelines.

I came home each day tired, but energized. The forum was high value for the cost.

I draw energy from the unexpected. For instance, those of us who wanted Dr. Paul Farmers autograph were in for a treat – he likes to visit with the people who want autographs. But this meant, for me, a 4 1/2 hour wait in line, but also an opportunity to visit with a couple of students from a local university. 4 1/2 hours is a long time. But it was worth the wait.

(Earlier Grace Kelly had noted the very large number of college students in attendance, quite the contrast from our normal surroundings. These were young people interested in the issues addressed.)

For the content, watch/listen to some of the archived talks.

Attached is a pdf of most (not all) of the daily agenda items: 2013 Augsburg NPPF Sem002.

A few photos (click on any to enlarge):

Peace Prize Festival (for Grade 3-8 students):

Students in Exhibit Area at Peace Prize Festival

Students in Exhibit Area at Peace Prize Festival


Students from Valley Crossing Elementary Woodbury

Students from Valley Crossing Elementary Woodbury

First Graders from Burroughs Elementary Minneapolis, always a hit.

First Graders from Burroughs Elementary Minneapolis, always a hit.

Lyle Christianson (seated) with his daughter, Janice Johnson, Burroughs First Grade teacher, and Lynn Elling, co-founder of Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg.

Lyle Christianson (seated) with his daughter, Janice Johnson, Burroughs First Grade teacher, and Lynn Elling, co-founder of Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg.

Paul Farmer signs autographs with Paul and Natalie (second from right) and two other collegians from Northfield MN

Paul Farmer signs autographs with Paul and Natalie (second from right) and two other collegians from Northfield MN

Yours truly gets his autograph, 4 1/2 hours after joining the line.  It was worth the long wait.

Yours truly gets his autograph, 4 1/2 hours after joining the line. It was worth the long wait.

Colman McCarthy on How to be a Peacemaker

Colman McCarthy on How to be a Peacemaker

#699 – Dick Bernard: Listening to the Governor of Minnesota

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Yesterday noon we, along with several hundred others, braved Twin Cities roads to gather at a lunch at McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota.

The speaker was Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Gov. Mark Dayton, March 5, 2013, University of Minnesota First Tuesday.

Gov. Mark Dayton, March 5, 2013, University of Minnesota First Tuesday.

The event was the Carlson School of Management’s “First Tuesday” and the large audience seemed mostly to be Twin Cities business representatives. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler was one of the dignitaries in the audience.

A portion of the audience at First Tuesday March 5

A portion of the audience at First Tuesday March 5

It was a most interesting hour. Gov. Dayton spoke, referring a number of times to this handout which we all received: Guv Hndout Mar 5 2013002. At the end, he answered questions and listened to advice from the floor, presented at random through several portable microphones. He was with us for over an hour; then departed to talk with another group somewhere else.

The tension of driving to the event after 8″ of snow, was worth it.

Governor Dayton knew his audience, and he politely but certainly took the offensive.

Judging from the tens of thousands of communications I see, from left and right, and politically disinterested, we are a society that takes non-negotiable positions, basing our judgements on our understanding of our one or two most important issues.

Contemporary society is complex, so we citizens mostly revert to simplicity. We don’t want information unless it supports our position.

It is a dangerous attitude, shared by far too many.

Gov. Dayton, as we Minnesotans know, comes from a very prominent Minnesota business family; spent part of his early career as a school teacher in inner city New York; and has spent most of his adult career in public service in the state of Minnesota.

He has an impressive portfolio. Still I sometimes hear him ridiculed for various unfair reasons.

But he knows bottom lines and good public policy.

The Governor was in a serious mode, yesterday.

His anchor story was of meeting with a dozen or so of Minnesota’s most prominent big business leaders not long ago. It was one of those fancy, private dinner meetings somewhere.

He marveled, he said, at how these very sophisticated captains of Minnesota business and industry seemed not to budge from their respective certainties, even when confronted with pesky facts that didn’t support their positions. (Think assorted mantras: “business is being forced to leave our state due to high taxes” and the like.) Belief seemed to trump reason.

They were stuck (as we all can be) in their belief about reality.

Sitting there, I could better understand people at my level being mired in our own unrealities, than these anonymous Big Shots who privately had the Governors ear for an extended period of time.

We ordinary people have to struggle to get to “facts”; these Captains of Minnesota Business have boatloads of employees in their corporations who, if they were hired for and allowed such, could be truth tellers.

But hearing the truth is inconvenient, and even these business leaders apparently wouldn’t publicly budge, even in the face of contrary evidence from the Governor of their state.

Gov. Dayton spoke as a confident leader, in command of his narrative, unquestionably competent including addressing questions from the floor.

The Governor commented about Minnesota’s flagship University of Minnesota, and said he had gathered data which demonstrated that the UofM did as well or better in its accomplishments than the sum of the eight major universities in Boston – little places like Harvard, MIT and the like. His very prominent businessman Dad once told he and his siblings: “if you put all your eggs in one basket, you better take mighty good care of that basket.” But, he said the UofM, and public institutions in this state, have suffered from policies of austerity; and the state suffers as a consequence.

His Tax proposals are intended as informed thoughts and invitation to debate on alternatives to the pesky realities of our state, where for too many years we have relied on shell games, like shifts, to pretend we are doing well financially, supposedly “balancing our books”, when in reality we were digging ourselves a deep hole from which we now have to fashion a way out.

At the beginning, the Governor was greeted with polite applause.

At the end, there was a standing and sustained applause, joined by most in the audience, applause which did not seem forced.

It was a good day.

March 5, 2013, McNamara Alumni Center at University of Minnesota.  Audience listening to Governor Dayton.

March 5, 2013, McNamara Alumni Center at University of Minnesota. Audience listening to Governor Dayton.

#698 – Dick Bernard: The Hennepin County Commission, Minneapolis Mayor and City Council and the UN Flag, 1968 and 2012.

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

NOTE February 14, 2016: For the past three years the Hennepin County Commissioners, most of whom were on the Commission at the time of the official action March 27, 2012, on many occasions have refused to give an honest answer about why they took down the flag (Note: it had nothing to do with their consistent narrative: legality.)

The “filing cabinet” including much more background for this issue is at March 27, 2013, the link is here.

UPDATE: March 6, 2013: This post was reposted in MinnPost on March 5. A comment there notes a very slight error on my part in describing the location of the Woodbury Veterans Memorial. That error has been corrected below. I am in close proximity to that Memorial every day, and, in fact, am a member of the local American Legion Post involved in the development.

Re Hennepin County, Mr. Elling indicated yesterday that a group of citizens raised $6,000 in 1968 to purchase the flagpoles for the U.S. and United Nations flags at Minneapolis City Hall. This was serious money back then.

The Twin Cities Daily Planet has now also picked up this post.

Questions? Scroll to very end of this post for my contact information. I’ll try to answer.


NOTE TO READER: This long post is an effort to convey information, and opinion, about a specific issue I wasn’t aware of, in a community other than my own: an essentially covert act by a government entity to remove a UN flag which had flown quietly with the U.S. and Minnesota flags over Hennepin County Plaza for 44 years, 1968-2012.

I was not seeking to find the issue. To some, the issue described may seem small and insignificant, and it was and remains a non-mandatory issue for the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners – they can do what they wish to do. Nonetheless, to this writer, the voluntary action described illustrates simply one example of a careless action, ignorance of history, and a (possibly) inadvertent and very negative change in tone of leadership in our civil society.

As a society, we choose our own fate through actions of leaders we freely elect. As individual citizens we either seek to change the status quo, or we sit idly by. Simply voting (which includes not bothering to vote informed, or to even vote at all) is only the first action of a responsible citizen. An accumulation of seemingly small actions can have an irreversible long term impact.

It is important to keep our leaders accountable. For Hennepin County residents here is an opportunity.

(click on all photos to enlarge them)

Flags at Veterans Memorial March 2,2013

Flags at Woodbury Veterans Memorial near Woodbury City Hall March 2,2013

Sometimes research leads to unexpected results.

In December, 2012, I finally discovered the documents I needed to document a very important event in Minneapolis in March and May, 1968. They were in the archival records of Minneapolis Mayor Arthur Naftalin (1961-69) at the Minnesota History Center. There were many pages about the 1968 Declaration of World Citizenship of Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis. Found in the file was Lynn Elling’s‘s history of the event, written in late May, 1968: Henn:Mpls Decl Mar 68001

These documents answered my previously unanswered questions – they were exactly what I was looking for: World Law Day May 1 1968001.

Days after my discovery, unsought and completely unexpected, came a link to an April 2012 Nick Coleman commentary about a March 27, 2012, action by the Hennepin County Board, removing the United Nations flag as one permitted to fly at the Hennepin Co. Government Center, Minneapolis. That issue instantly attracted my attention, and while I’m still searching for more facts, today, March 5, 2013, seems to be the appropriate time to bring the issue to public attention.

March 5, 1968, 45 years ago, was a significant day in the history of Minneapolis and Hennepin County. On that day the Board of Commissioners of Hennepin County, the Minneapolis City Council, and then-Minneapolis Mayor Arthur Naftalin unanimously recognized “the sovereign right of our citizens to declare that their citizenship responsibilities extend beyond our city and nation. We hereby join with other concerned people of the world in a declaration that we share in this world responsibility and that our citizens are in this sense citizens of the world. We pledge our efforts as world citizens to the establishment of permanent peace based on just world law, and to the use of world resources in the service of man and not for his destruction.”

Later, a bi-partisan who’s-who in Minnesota signed the declaration as well.

This Declaration, by “the first American community to take such action”, further requested that the Municipal Building Commission “proudly display the United Nations flag on suitable occasions at the main entrance to the City Hall and the main entrance to the new county building.”

Minneapolis/Hennepin County MN Declaration of World Citizenship signed March 5, 1968, dedicated May 1, 1968

Minneapolis/Hennepin County MN Declaration of World Citizenship signed March 5, 1968, dedicated May 1, 1968

On May 1, 1968, then as now, Law Day, a large group of citizens, including at least 27 Mayors of Hennepin County communities, met at the City Hall to publicly celebrate the Declaration and publicly raise the United Nations flag alongside the American flag. A new flagpole had been raised for this purpose. In Minnesota the observance came to be known as “World Law Day”, as shown in a May 1, 1968, cartoon in the Minneapolis Star: World Law ‘toon My 1 68 001

May 1 68 Elmer Anderson002

Keynote speaker May 1 1968, former Minnesota Governor Elmer L. Andersen, proudly supported the flag raising.

Among other remarks he said the raising of the United Nations flag “represents a commitment to cooperation among nations for world peace, to belief in the common brotherhood of all men of all nations, and to aspirations for a world community of peace, freedom and justice under world law.” His speech can be read here: Elmer Andersen I Trust..001

Elmer L. Andersen  (center), Mayor Arthur Naftalin (right) and unidentified person with the UN flag before raising May 1, 1968

Elmer L. Andersen (center), Mayor Arthur Naftalin (right) and unidentified person with the UN flag before raising May 1, 1968

The United Nations Flag was raised on the new flagpole next to the U.S. flag, a symbol of community and non-partisan friendship with the world. Certainly, proper flag protocol was followed. The flagpole gave permanence to the word “suitable” in the earlier resolution.

That UN Flag, and many successor flags, to my knowledge, probably flew consistently until March 27, 2012, when the Hennepin County Board, quietly in the consent agenda, and likely with no public hearings or even internal debate, directed that the UN Flag be taken down permanently. The directive stated that “solely the flags of the United States, Minnesota and Hennepin County” be raised, “in compliance with the U.S. Flag Code.”

The 2012 Board Resolution is here: Henn Co Res 3:27:12001

I discovered this resolution at the end of December, 2012, and immediately took issue, as a citizen, by writing the Members of the Hennepin County Board: Bernard Ltr 12:2912001. I learned that six of the seven had been on the Board at the time of the earlier resolution; apparently four of them had voted on the resolution, all in favor.

I have received no response from any Board member which in itself is not especially surprising, since I don’t live in Hennepin County, but it nonetheless significant (see comment about Arthur Naftalin, below).

To date, the only rationale I know of, provided by the Board to a citizen of the county, is that flying the U.N. flag in some way goes against the U.S. Flag Code Section VII, Paragraph C. This statute is easily accessed on the internet. The cite from Statute seems to apply only to the U.S. flag “when carried in a procession with another flag”.

The flagpoles at City Hall were stationary, certainly by no means in “procession”. Whatever the case, the Code in question has no penalties for even egregious violations – its tenets are superseded by freedom of speech.

There is nothing illegal about the UN flag. it is a legitimate flag. The UN is headquartered in New York City, and a prime mover for the founding of the United Nations was the United States, led by people like another former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen. The U.S. has been a dominant player at the UN since its founding. The UN is hardly an enemy nation, though it is portrayed that way by some who seem governed by fear.

There are people who just despise the United Nations, and they won on March 27, 2012. The UN flag was quietly taken down at Hennepin County Government Center.

There is no need for the issue to remain quiet.

The decision makers, the Hennepin County Board, need to hear from citizens. Only in that way will an unfortunate decision be reversed and a proud day, May 1, 1968, be once again honored.

I’d suggest that an appropriate occasion to re-fly the United Nations flag and publicly re-affirm the 1968 Declaration of World Citizenship is May 1, 2013, Law Day.

Prime movers of the 1968 Declaration, and a later similar Declaration of the State of Minnesota, were Minneapolis businessmen Stanley Platt and Lynn Elling. Now 92, Lynn still lives in Minneapolis, and remains active. Lynn was the MC of the May 1, 1968, event, and later described the process leading to the Declaration: Henn:Mpls Decl Mar 68001

Lynn Elling at Minneapolis City Hall May 1, 1968 opening the event where Minneapolis and Hennepin County declard themselves World Citizenship Communities, and where the United Nations flag flew alongside the U.S. flag.

Lynn Elling at Minneapolis City Hall May 1, 1968 opening the event where Minneapolis and Hennepin County declared themselves World Citizenship Communities, joining perhaps 1000 other world communities, and where the United Nations flag flew alongside the U.S. flag.

Lynn Elling with the Minneapolis Declaration at Minneapolis City Hall, Dec. 22, 2012.  Photo compliments of Bonnie Fournier of the Smooch Project

Lynn Elling with the Minneapolis Declaration at Minneapolis City Hall, Dec. 22, 2012. Photo compliments of Bonnie Fournier of the Smooch Project

In 1971, the State of Minnesota also declared itself a World Citizen. Again this was completely non-partisan. The Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial spoke to the concept of World Citizenship then.

StarTrib 3-30-71003

Travel two miles east from the Hennepin County Government Center to Augsburg College Campus and you’ll see the United Nations flag proudly flying amongst four others, properly displayed in relation to the U.S. flag. Those attending the 25th Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg this weekend will see the flags flying, alongside I-94.

Augsburg College, Minneapolis MN, March 3, 2013.  UN flag is at center

Augsburg College, Minneapolis MN, March 3, 2013. UN flag is at center

Augsburg is not unique. Minneapolitan Jim Nelson, who was at the May 1, 1968 dedication, spent his career at Honeywell, where the UN flag flew every day.

In 1968, after the dedication, some enraged citizens demanded that the UN flag be removed. On Feb. 7, 1969, Mayor Naftalin wrote colleague Mayor Joseph Alioto of San Francisco affirming the importance of the Declaration. In relevant part, he said “we were pleased to issue our proclamation, although our action has not met with universal approval judging from some of the mail it has prompted.” [there were perhaps 15 negative letters, only three from Hennepin County citizens]. “However, I am still convinced the proclamation has much merit as a symbolic step towards world peace and I view it as being in the best interests of our city, county, state and nation.” (s) Arthur Naftalin, Mayor.

Interestingly, and in contrast to subsequent action by the members of the 2012-13 Hennepin County Board, Mayor Naftalin wrote individual and respectful acknowledgement letters to every one of those who complained about the Declaration of World Citizenship, regardless of where they were from, or how abusive the tone of their letter (and there were some “hum-dingers”). (I have copied the entirety of the relevant files).

Mayor Naftalin was connected with the greater world; he recognized he was more than leader of just a major city, but himself a World Citizen. I wonder about today’s Hennepin County Board.

Perhaps like most people, I do not customarily notice flags, their placement, etc.

This incident has caused me to look more closely at flags I see displayed.

The photo at the beginning of this post is from Woodbury, my home, and in that setting the U.S. flag is set considerably above all of the other flags (primarily military banners – Army, etc.) One might call the Woodbury display a “War Memorial”.

At Augsburg, on the other hand, the flags are in compliance with the Code, but at equal height, neither subordinate nor superior. They more befit the theme of “Peace” within and among nations. There is an entirely different tone.

There are notes of irony, for instance: doubtless there are “State’s Rights” people who might logically demand that their State flag be set higher than the national banner, while at the same time demanding that only the U.S. flag be revered.

Emotion too often trumps reason.

The flag debate is a debate about the tone of our society. How we see ourselves as compared with others.

This is an important question to be considered and discussed.
Questions? Information that you know that would help further enlighten myself or others on the issue?
Send to
Dick Bernard
6905 Romeo Road
Woodbury MN 55125-2421

#697 – Dick Bernard: A Union Reunion

Friday, March 1st, 2013

February 28 I took a short drive to attend the 20 year anniversary of the creation of the merged Dakota County United Educators (DCUE) in the south metro communities of Rosemount, Apple Valley and Eagan MN. It was good to re-visit the long ago accomplishment and to re-meet many fine people from the two memorable years of 1990-92.

My involvement there began as MEA field representative for the Rosemount Education Association in the summer of 1990; it ended with the October 1992 formal agreement that was, according to then-Rosemount Federation of Teachers and now Dakota County United Educators President Jim Smola, “the first true merger between an AFT and NEA local in the country.”

(click on photos to enlarge)

Jim Smola, Feb 28, 2013

Jim Smola, Feb 28, 2013

The merger was a big deal. In a real way, it was similar to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall (1989). Well over 20 years of organized animosities between two rival teacher organizations in Minnesota essentially came to an end with the Dakota County merger. While the Minnesota state merger (MEA, MFT to Education Minnesota) didn’t occur until 1998, the October, 1992 merger rendered obsolete the need for continuing the sometimes fierce and always apparent battle for dominance that began in the 1960s, intensified in the late 60s and early 70s, and began to diminish towards the end of the 1980s.*

“Winning” was redefined. No longer did there did there have to be a “loser”. Competition of ideas was within the community, rather than organization against organization.

The Dakota County merger was a very big deal that could neither be ignored or denied within the teacher union movement.

I got to remembering those two years, and the years immediately before when bitter relationships between “Union” and “Association” began to thaw. I remember specific events, as others involved at the time will remember their own specific events, turning points, etc.

My memories are no more, or less, important than anyone elses.

As I think about that merger, I am of the opinion that it was individual members more than union leadership who were the real motivators of the merger process.

Members were sick of the fighting.

In Dakota County a razor-thin bargaining election victory in 1989, overturned and reversed by court action, probably intensified quiet thought and conversation among many teachers in the District: “what’s the point of our fighting?” was a legitimate question.

Still, you don’t just wash away over 20 years of investment in pretty intense competition. It requires risk taking on many levels, and people willing to take those risks, to make a new bargain, to invent a new way of getting along.

The merger was made, documents signed, and dignitaries came to celebrate the merger in October, 1992.

I was at that gathering, and I still remember the occasion.

Merger certainly didn’t make everything perfect. The same group of teachers remained in the bargaining unit, with their own ideas, priorities, and ways of approaching problem solving.

But rather than being in opposing armed camps, the out of power minority in a powerless yet very powerful position; now, everyone was in the majority, and the collective Dakota County United Educators needed to figure problems out, together.

Everyone shared rights and responsibilities.

From all appearances, the DCUE merger has worked for the betterment of all, especially public education in School District #196.

Congratulations DCUE.


And a personal salute to my colleague, Bob Tonra, who preceded me working with REA.

Some of the guests at the anniversary, Feb. 28. Center front is Judy Schaubach, then VP of MEA; 2nd from left in top row is Sandra Peterson, then President MFT.  Others: front row Sharon Kjellberg and Denise Specht; top row from left Paul Mueller, Greg Burns and Dick Bernard

Some of the guests at the anniversary, Feb. 28. Center front is Judy Schaubach, then VP of MEA; 2nd from left in top row is Sandra Peterson, then President MFT. Others: front row Sharon Kjellberg and Denise Specht; top row from left Paul Mueller, Greg Burns and Dick Bernard

Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher makes brief remarks during the program.

Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher makes brief remarks during the program.

POSTNOTE: Ironically, on the same day this local union was celebrating 20 years of collaboration for the benefit of all, the United States Congress went into recess guaranteeing “sequester” – a dramatic sign of failure of working relationships between Republicans and Democrats.

Our whole country could benefit by some of the lessons taught by the teachers of Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan over 20 years ago.

We “members” of the United States of America are the ones responsible for the change we wish to see.

* A QUICK HISTORY SEMINAR, A PERSONAL OPINION: A book deserves to be written – perhaps one already has that I’m not aware of – about Teacher-Management relationships in Minnesota. My first teaching position was 50 years ago – 1963-64 – in Minnesota. Here’s a quick summary as seen by one person who’s ‘been there, done that’. I solicit comments:

1. The “bring and beg” years comprise most of the history of teacher compensation and other rights in this state and nation. There were very few rights and many responsibilities. There was no parity of any kind in labor-management relationships. Some would see these as “the good old days”. My parents were career public school teachers, and I know the life they had. I have 67 of the 71 one-year contracts that they signed while teaching in North Dakota. There was only job insecurity.

2. The 1960s were a restive time and militance increased. There were two teacher organizations: the larger, more rural Minnesota Education Association (MEA), which was viewed as a management run organization; and the smaller, more urban, Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT), which viewed itself as a more aggressive labor union, affiliated with AFL-CIO. By the mid-1960s the administration dominance of MEA was weakening, and times were getting more tense within the Association.

I was in “MEA”, becoming active about 1968. We were, by then, a teacher’s union. In my years, I never saw the sharp distinction that the MFT tried to highlight as it competed with the Association for members and influence. In my recollection, the two organizations were doing the same things for the same reasons: working for justice and fair treatment for teachers. Doubtless, to this day, there would be arguments disputing my description of “MEA”

3. 1967, the State Legislature enacted “Meet and Confer”, which was in reality a bargaining law, albeit without any legal teeth. Management still decided terms and conditions in the end. But it was a huge change. A key provision called for something called a Teacher’s Council, which in locals where there were competing unions, there was proportionate representation on the Council. So, in a particular situation there might be four MEA members and one MFT member on a Council; or four MFT members and one MEA member in another, and so on. It was in this time that I became active. Often the minority used its position as a critic of the majority, to leverage anger and dissension. The MFT criticized Meet and Confer as not really bargaining; but it was a big step in the right direction.

4. 1971, the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) was passed. It was a true bargaining law, with binding arbitration of grievances and the like. A key provision was the call for an Exclusive Representative, no more minority representation on a Teachers Council. This heightened competition initially, but as time went on there was less and less possibility of successful “bargaining elections”. Apple Valley-Rosemount-Eagan, the topic of this blogpost, was an apparent exception to the rule.

5. 1998, MEA and MFT became Education Minnesota, functioning as a single labor organization representing teachers and other education employees.

6. The much-amended PELRA remains in effect in Minnesota, and most recently right-wing zealots have been attempting to strip public employees of long held rights through methods similar to Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Today’s danger is that, after 40 years of PELRA, very few teachers and other public employees have any real notion of how difficult the struggles were to achieve what they now take for granted.