Purposeful direction and indomitable courage

Last week, we saw two Republican women, US Senators Murkowski and Collins, stand up for their constituents in the face of enormous pressure, eventually joined by Senator McCain. Their display of political courage gave us hope.

The ideal of courageous, caring political leadership is in the DNA of Minnesota. Our state has produced several fine examples. One was our 22d governor, Floyd B. Olson. 

In 1933, the depths of the Great Depression, conditions in Minnesota were desperate, with many farm foreclosures, high unemployment, and families in despair. Governor Floyd Bjornstjerne Olson, child of poor Norwegian immigrants, called out “the failure of government and our social system to function in the interests of the common happiness of the people.” Olson called for state government to become an agent for social and economic change through progressive income taxes, unemployment insurance, social security for the elderly, equal pay for women, and a minimum wage. 

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On the wall of the Minnesota Capitol, across the hall from the governor’s office, is a memorial plaque for Governor Olson, who died in 1936 at only 44. I often pause to read its words:

“Born in near poverty and schooled in adversity, intimate with hunger and want. Out of this crucible came pioneer leadership with the purposeful direction and the indomitable courage to seek new frontiers of economic security for the underprivileged. To that which he wrought an enduring memorial is builded in the hearts of his people.”

Too often, our government still fails to function in the interests of the “common happiness of the people.” I’m running to fix that, to carry on the tradition of Floyd B. Olson.

Governor Olson, we love you still.