Minnesota dreaming


Well, now it’s public!

Tom Powers, writing October 10 in the Pioneer Press about new Gopher Nation Coach Tim Brewster with his 1 and 4 record so far said it in print: “Around here, the goal has been to wind up somewhere in between respectability and mediocrity.”

When I first came to Minnesota to be Dean of the Hamline Law School, an older, cynical wag from a Summit Hill family in Saint Paul (some called him an effete snob) asked me bluntly: “You know what’s wrong with Hamline don’t you?”

Taken aback, as I had just accepted the job without any notice that something was deeply “wrong” with that small, private, liberal arts university on Snelling Avenue, I replied “No.”

He replied: “They’re too close to the Methodist Church and the Methodists have never recovered from the failure of Prohibition. They think it’s OK to be second best.”

That one hit home. I have seen its truth again and again in Minnesota, and not just with Methodists. Garrison Keillor puts the current Minnesota ideal nicely in his line “All the men are good looking, all the women are handsome and all the children are above average.”

Just at Tom Powers said about the University of Minnesota football team: aiming to be somewhere in between respectability and mediocrity.

Not so low as to be bad or disgraceful; that wouldn’t be nice.

But not so high as to attract attention or set expectations for excellence and innovation; that wouldn’t be nice either. It might make a comparative judgment about someone else for being below you.

The hiring notice here should read: heroes, geniuses, dreamers need not apply.

There is so little thought of the big time left anymore in so many Minnesota minds. The bright lights are off on Broadway, or in London, Tokyo or Beijing – anywhere but here.

So maybe it’s no accident that our largest companies more and more recruit CEOs from out of state for a stint at the helm of enterprise.

The seduction away from Minnesota on the part of Honeywell and the St Paul Companies are similar cases in point. They are no longer led from Minnesota.

And, that is why in politics we can no longer expect to produce any more Harold Stassens, Hubert Humphreys, Gene McCarthys, Elmer Andersons, and others of that quality. Politics has become a quagmire of pettiness, of modest talents sunk in spin and narrowly calculated appeals to the fundraising base.

If tomorrow Abraham Lincoln were to declare war on the Southern slave barons and ask for volunteers, would Minnesota still be the first to sign up and send troops, or would our leaders wait and see which way the politically correct winds were blowing?

“Minnesota Nice” has become a leadership death spiral.

Defensive, passive aggressive, better than average, but not too much so – Minnesotans too often sell themselves and their talent short.

We need more old fashioned Minnesota Dreaming.

Like the young kid from Little Falls who thought he could design a new kind of airplane and fly it across the Atlantic to Paris. He did both of course.

As we used to sing in the Civil Rights Movement to keep our spirits up: “Keep your eye on the prize; hold on.”