Al Quie’s life of faith, service and civility


by Joe Nathan • 9/20/08 • In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Governor Al Quie and Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe battled constantly. Last week, they hugged. Moe and Quie now regard each other as “one of my best friends.” This was one of many stories told as Quie’s new book, Riding into the Sunrise, was presented to the public on his 85th birthday.

Quie grew up on a Southeastern Minnesota farm near Dennison and Nerstrand – an experience that has stayed with him throughout his life. The book, written with Mitch Pearlstein, head of the Center of the American Experiment, describes Quie’s “life of faith, service and civility.” As he talked last week, Quie made it clear that his faith, and his family, had made a huge difference in his life. As Pearlstein’s introduction to the book explains, Quie “was never hesitant or remote when talking about his faith in God and Jesus Christ.” Then Pearlstein asks, why would “a Jewish fellow …possibly write such a personal book about such a serious Christian, or ‘follower of Jesus Christ’ as Quie prefers to call himself.”

There are many answers but the central reason seem to be that Quie has lived a life of continuing service, as congressman, governor of Minnesota, and an advocate of non-partisan judicial elections, reconciliation of prisoners and strong early childhood programs.

One of the many things that Quie has worked on is helping people in prison acknowledge their mistakes and re-integrate into the community. Charles Colson, who was imprisoned for his Watergate activities, writes in the book “Al Quie is one of these rare individuals who passes through this life leaving in his wake countless others transformed for the better. I am one of those.”

At one point, Roger Moe called Quie a “cunning political animal” (Not a compliment). Moe recalls that Quie appeared before a legislative committee while running for governor: “I still remember his appearance and must admit I thought this guy should be easy to beat as he was not exactly a candidate from GQ, with cowboy hat and western boots, a speaking style that’s more soothing than exciting, and to top it off, a campaign centerpiece – income tax indexing – that wasn’t exactly a gut grabber. Well, I was wrong…”

My experience with Governor Quie begins in 1985, when Governor Rudy Perpich had proposed allowing high school juniors and seniors to take college courses. The proposal was drawing a LOT of criticism from school boards, superintendents, and teacher unions.

Quie stepped in, joining some Democrats like Tom Nelson, chair of the Minnesota Senate Education Committee, and Connie Levi, a prominent Minnesota House member. Quie publicly and privately helped develop broad, bi-partisan support for the proposal, even though Democrats had vigorously criticized him just three years earlier.

After the law passed, I asked why he helped. Quie answered immediately: “It was a good idea – the right thing for Minnesota students.”

Our students hear daily ads where candidates blast each other. I hope that families and schools will find ways to help youngsters learn about people like Al Quie – for whom what’s best matters more than who suggests it.