Fighting cynicism, over breakfast


Looking out at the crowd seated for breakfast in the atrium of Mercado Central, U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison complimented his colleague, Minneapolis alderman Gary Schiff, on the wisdom of bringing his constituents together in that setting. “We need such spaces to discuss the issues we are passionate about,” said Ellison.

As the guest at April’s monthly “Breakfast with Gary,” Ellison spoke primarily about two topics: prosperity for working people, and world peace. “The issue of peace is the most pressing issue for our country right now,” he said, explaining that the war is a causal factor in our economic situation. Global concerns such as oil prices and food shortages are as critical as local concerns such as the housing market. Although some of these issues, said Ellison, were a result of legislative actions, he argued that the problems “can be fixed by all of us. It will take us all to do it.”

Gary Schiff, Minneapolis City Council member representing Ward 9, invites the public to “Breakfast with Gary,” held on the last Friday of each month at Mercado Central, 1515 E. Lake Street, from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. For $5, you get a tamale, eggs, coffee, juice, a pastry and conversation.

With respect to prosperity for working people, Ellison told the audience of several dozen that he is working towards a high-wage American economy. He encouraged the guests to remember that America remains relatively prosperous, pointing out that a billion people in the world live on a dollar a day and need America’s support. “Good neighbors are happy neighbors,” he said.

“Blame Congress, blame me, blame the president, but don’t check out.”

After Ellison delivered his prepared remarks, he invited questions from the attendees. Citizens raised many issues, including:
• A suggestion that there be an anti-torture independent commission;
• Support for legislation to protect tenants who are living in buildings that are being foreclosed upon;
• Immigrant rights in general and specifically regarding prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba; and
• The rise of a “green economy” and proposed actions to keep “green jobs” in the Twin Cities.

The final questioner asked Ellison about his views on the war in Iraq. Ellison responded that “we’ve got to do more. We’re going to need more than two years to get troops out.”

In closing, Ellison pleaded with attendees to “tell your friends and your neighbors to fight cynicism. Help us get the word out. Blame Congress, blame me, blame the president, but don’t check out. Get more dialogues going, get more forums, get involved. Please don’t check out.”

Jennifer Holder contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet and the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.