20th Century, Governors, Minnesota

Governor Karl F. Rolvaag

Karl F. Rolvaag: Governors of Minnesota. collections.mnhs.org

March 25, 1963-January 21, 1967
After the one hundred thirty-nine day recount, Lieutenant Governor Rolvaag becomes the thirty-first Governor of Minnesota by just 91 votes. Governing on principle more than charisma, this disciplined leader effectively changed: the junior college system, reapportioned legislative districts, and improved mental institutions. He had the distinction of being the first to serve a four year gubernatorial term. *

Few politicians of this era had more authentic bragging rights as to their Minnesota roots than Karl. Let’s recount a few that would deeply resonate with any Midwesterner of this age:
Karl was born in Northfield, MN. in 1913, and attended St. Olaf.
His father was the iconic Norwegian novelist of “Giants in the Earth”; Ole Rolvaag.
He dropped out of university the year his father passed, 1931, to “head out west”.
He spent six years as a railway “hobo” of sorts, chasing the man-camps and working as a logger, miner, teamster, and various roles on the rails.
He joined the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of World), and experienced the infamous logging strikes of 1936.
He returned to St Olaf and finished his degree, got married to Florence, and promptly was sent to serve in WW II where he won a Silver Star, and a Purple Heart.
He showed himself to be a man who could work with his brains, and his hands. **
After his military service, he had more education at the University of Minnesota, and earned his LL.D (legum doctor) from the University of Oslo. *

This dichotomy of life experiences shaped his ability to relate and show empathy to all kinds of Minnesotans. For example, he was a 3-term Lieutenant Governor under Democrat Orville Freeman, and also served as LG under his Republican successor, Elmer L. Anderson!? This kind of balanced character was an object lesson of the DFL platform of his era; an educated everyman!

Digging in, we find that his practicality drove his reforms in education; ie “How can one effectively attend junior college unless its nearby?” Formerly, the community colleges were run by local school boards. Rolvaag pushed to place more leadership under the state, capitalize on economies of scale, with the overarching goal to put these junior colleges in both financial and geographic reach of students. ***

During his era, the rural political districts had more representatives than the metro areas. In the session of 1965, rural representatives passed a bill that Governor Rolvaag called a “blatant, calculated, political gerrymander.” This battle lasted 3 more iterations before a consensus was reached on redistricting in a special session. ****

A tertiary set of accomplishments could be found in the governor’s advocacy for Minnesotan’s wrestling mental illness and the Minnesota Mental Health Association, as well as his promotion of groups such as ARC (Minnesota Association for Retarded Citizens). Below is a quote from the speech from the President of ARC circa 1964.

“I am equally certain that an educated, informed and aroused citizenry is absolutely essential if we are to solve and give top priority consideration to the critical problems relating to the lack of community services and gross understaffing, gross overcrowding, herd care, and continued use of some antiquated residential and other facilities in our state institutions for the mentally retarded.
Irrespective of your and my political affiliations, I assure you that we can all be most appreciative of Governor Rolvaag’s leadership and sincere interest exhibited on these tours. Governor and Mrs. Rolvaag were most impressed with the day care centers visit ed at Duluth, Atwater, St. Cloud and Rochester, and the Sheltered Workshop at Fergus Falls. They were also impressed, as were we all, with many of the dedicated and able employees of and some of the new projects being conducted in our institutions for the mentally retarded and mentally ill.” *****

Essentially, Rolvaag did for these two communities as he had done for junior colleges and their students: make them more accessible, make them affordable, provide State assistance and support to staffing and standards, and make the public aware of their pressing needs.

A wonderful summary of Karl’s term in office came from no less than then Vice President of the United States; Hubert H. Humphrey.
“Karl Rolvaag may not be a comet, racing across the sky, but I will tell you this: Karl is as steady and reliable as the North Star. You know where he is, you know where he has been, and you know his record-solid, solid as a rock.” ******

Avna, Ho Lithos, Stone the builders rejected, Capstone of the Universe; we remember You. We applaud Your perfect consistency in authority, truth and justice. Yet, You are as immovable in Your unchanging favor towards the human race!
It seems like Karl Fritjof Rolvaag learned some of this character trait from You, and applied it in the way he led Minnesota. Even his Norwegian middle name, Fritjof, speaks of balance; “thief of peace” or “tranquil”. Will You guide us to acknowledge this moment of his leadership in history?

Our first gratitude is given for the tremendous variety and breadth of his education before office: son of Ole (a giant Norwegian mind), educated in tremendous universities, strengthened by years of heavy labor, and battled hardened in World War II. All of this preparation decries Your hand: an educated man can invite the wisdom of others, a laborer knows the sanctity of the body, and a soldier savors the depths of peace like no other! We thank You that such a man could relate to so many of us because of these joys and trials.

Subsequently, we see these experiences fulfilled in a governorship of balance and boundaries. He was not a partisan, but served the people of Minnesota as Lieutenant Governor under both parties. He wanted fair boundaries for equal representation. He wanted our people to be able to attend a junior college nearby. He drew a circle of protection around our most vulnerable citizens a decade before American society caught up. Will You remember these gifts and examples of his leadership?

On the contrary, we see judgments made of him in this era. Clearly, he believed in government as a force for good, and consolidated some powers of individuals and associations into the hand of the State. He barely won his election, therefore, did not have a perspicuous mandate. For outstate citizens then, he redrew political districts to favor the power of the metro areas over them. Will You forgive this judgment and counter-judgment past, free us from such battles in the present, and bless the future of the integrity of all political redistricting?

Further, another bitter root in our state in Governor Rolvaag’s term is the usurpation of local control of junior colleges, tech schools, and community colleges. Yes, many problems are resolved with state funding of education, and a uniformity of standards. However, this necessitates the locus of choice be removed further and further away from the individual student and the desires of their town. An example of this would be how our schools still take a summer break that is relevant to an agricultural society, even though their urban students will never plant or bring in the harvest. Will You take the dance of state versus local control of education up, out, and onto the Cross? We have gained more education, and yielded our wisdom. Will You free these judgments past, heal this balance in the present, and bless the future of our junior colleges?

Another request, Avno? We honor the actions of Rolvaag in giving dignity to the mentally ill and the developmental disabled among us. There is so much of Your heart in that! Unfortunately, his generosity towards the mentally ill has become, in some cases, enabling dysfunction. Our mentally ill citizens are afraid to move towards wellness or they may lose their benefits. We give You this “catch 22”, and invite Your solutions. We thank You for both the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill among us. May we acknowledge the incredible value of their lives, and invite their participation in society. Will You forgive us our judgments of mental illness and developmental disabilities, and the counter-judgments of those populations towards others? Will You make us like Governor Fritjof; stealing peace from discontentment?

“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but an accurate weight is His delight.” Proverbs 11:1 Berean Study Bible *******

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols. https://www.nga.org/governor/karl-fritjof-rolvaag/
** Ross, Carl interview of Rolvaag, Karl. Northfield, MN. “Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Karl F. Rolvaag”. August 31, 1989. Internet. Minnesota Historical Society. http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display.php?irn=10362505
*** Internet. Prabook. 2021. https://prabook.com/web/karl_fritjof.rolvaag/672210
**** Nelson, Paul. “Legislative Redistricting, 1959–1993”. Internet. MNHS. https://www.mnopedia.org/event/legislative-redistricting-1959-1993
***** https://mn.gov/web/prod/static/mnddc/live/past/pdf/60s/64/64-RBT-MDH.pdf
****** Quote by Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Speech at Minnesota DFL Beanfeed. October 29, 1966. http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00442/pdfa/00442-02055.pdf
******* https://biblehub.com/proverbs/11-1.html

Standard
20th Century, DFL, Governors, Uncategorized

Inventing the Future: Orville L. Freeman

Minnesota Governor Orville L. Freeman, and the slate of the DFL party ca. 1954 elections. http://discussions.mnhs.org/collections/category/acquisitions/

January 5, 1955-January 2, 1961
On November 2, 1954, Orville L. Freeman secured the Democratic-Farmer-Laborite gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote. He was reelected to a second term in 1956, and to a third term in 1958. During his tenure, a water resource board was formed; the seaway port authority was created; the state’s health institutions were advanced; a fair employment practice law was sanctioned; and educational funding was expanded. After running unsuccessfully for reelection, Freeman left office on January 2, 1961.*

“We cannot predict the future, but we can invent it.” This quote does not originate with Freeman, but is credited to Nobel Prize winning physicist Dennis Gabor.** Yet, it seemed to be a recurring mantra and theme of the life of Governor Freeman. Let’s explore this notion further, and excavate the actions and motives of Mr. Freeman before his time in office.

To initiate, Freeman graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1940 and bonded for life with Hubert H. Humphrey. After serving as a Marine in the South Seas, he returned home to build a bridge between the liberal Minnesota Democratic Party and the more socialistic Farmer-Labor Party.

In this action, he and Humphrey were pivotal voices in forging a consensus based around the creed; “A Pledge for American Unity”. I offer a quote of some of its planks below.
“I will never try to indict a whole people by reason of the delinquency of any member.”
“In my daily conduct I will consecrate myself, hour by hour, to the achievements the highest ideal of the dignity of mankind, human equality, human fellowship and human brotherhood.”

Orville served as a charter member and chairman of the DFL party in Minnesota from 1948-1950.*** Operating under the ubiquitous and consummate Democratic Mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert H. Humphrey, the heart of the DFL platform became reality. It’s planks today remain largely unchanged: a strong commitment to civil rights, humanizing labor, social welfare, the primacy of public education, and access to healthcare.

Governor Freeman fought to make this mantra a reality during his three terms in office.
His efforts remained tightly focussed: environment and water quality, pumping up education and healthcare, fighting for labor laws, and laying the groundwork for the Food Stamps Act of 1964. ,*** Although considered a “moderate” in his era, Freeman’s accomplishments gave witness to his allegiance to “inventing the future” of Minnesota and the DFL.

Pivoting to prayer, Lord, we honor You and remember that You: heal our past, free our present, and bless our future. We thank You that Your placement as Governor of Governors is secure and constant. You have spoken over all humanity,
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” * John 15:16 NIV

We sit with You now, and remember the heart and the mind of Governor Freeman. We gratefully perpend the perpendicular motive conflicts he avoided; what he thought, he said, and what he said he did. How refreshing, again, to find a new hero of consistency in leadership; a man unified intellectually and in his nature! Will You lead us to acknowledge what we can to You in deep roots of conflict and success in his life?

Before his terms as governor, we see a man wrestling with human nature. Like the First Family, the sons of Adam and Eve, Orville knew that even brothers can hate, disavow, and even kill each other. Will You bless his heritage of making peace; standing between Progressives and Democrats? Will You forgive us of this era of hot judgment? Progressive Minnesotans judged Liberal Minnesotans, Liberals counter-judged Progressives, and both factions judged Republicans. All of these groups are human being that You went to the Cross for, were buried for, and rose for on the third day. Will You remove this living and active root of bitterness from our local culture: past present, and future?

Moving on, we commend Governor Freeman’s ideation and creativity in the realm of policy. Changing the direction of any large organization is like trying to turn a supertanker without a rudder. Maybe a good captain can alter the course a few degrees, but momentum is powerful force to counter. Forgive my weak analogies, Lord, but we want to acknowledge the importance of Orville’s critical input in forming the key planks of the DFL. What he dreamed of in the 1940’s became his actions in the 1950’s, and have remained constants in the DFL party since!

May We quickly visit these ideas, Wise One?
Environmental Protection
Freeman realized that our incredible wealth of fresh water in Minnesota was a resource worthy of protections. Will You bless this concept? The counter-arguments then, as now, hinge on who gets to make the choice of the use of natural resources; the owner of the property, or the government? In answering this question, our people have been divided. Will You forgive us this sin of foolish division without clarity of terms? Will You forgive all Minnesotans’ judgments, irrespective of their position, of failing to acknowledge that all property is G-d’s Property? We have so little humility over natural resources that we only ever will be temporary stewards. Forgive us!

Labor Laws
Your word says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” * I Timothy 5:18 NIV

Freeman saw both the importance and limitations of labor. To elaborate, the human body has limitations of how many hours it can function before it breaks down, and those who do physical work know the direct costs to their bodies. We applaud Governor Freeman his attempts to create boundaries around our workers through laws that protected them in this epoch. We acknowledge the division and dissent some of these laws created, and their root judgments. To those who opposed Freeman, again, the issue is not a matter of the worthiness of the worker, but who gets to make the choice: the government, the employer, or the individual laboring? Will You forgive our failures then and now to adequately respect these heartfelt disagreements, and to find policies that protect while not inserting a third party into an employer-employee relationship? Will You forgive our society where we have disrupted binary relationships with tertiary ones?

Healthcare
Your Living Word says, “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Luke 16:9 NIV

Orville recognized the value of human life, and the dawning of the temptation of insurance companies and hospitals to commoditize it. How does society protect its poorest and underinsured from health horrors known in previous generations. In this case, he sought to “invent the future” through legal means.
Repetitively, this created opposition in our state over the economics of health. Critics may argue that the when the government through welfare laws creates a price floor, disequilibrium will always occur. It excludes those who would buy or sell at a lower than market price, and this creates a surplus.
While these forces could temporally bring down costs for consumers of healthcare, wouldn’t it stand to reason that it would raise the cost for healthcare providers, and their employees? Lord, in this we have failed to hear each other. We want to solve one problem, but then it sets off a chain of domino events that we didn’t anticipate. Will You show us a more equitable way to solve the problems of healthcare than price? Will You forgive us our judgments past, present and future of how and why our political government is in the business of healthcare?

In sum, we remember Governor Freeman’s optimism for human accomplishment. We both acknowledge this notion, and look at it critically and soberly. As long as we do not fail to continue right relationship with each other, I’m sure he would be proud. You have made a way to consensus. Lord, give Minnesota the hesed to “invent the future with each other and with You. Amen!

*Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols. Cited by https://www.nga.org/governor/orville-lothrop-freeman/

**https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/09/27/invent-the-future/

***Read on the origins of the DFL party and Freeman’s contributions. https://www.dfl.org/about/dfl-history/

**** Delaney, Arthur. Internet. HuffPost. (01/08/2014) “Jane Freeman, Widow Of Food Stamp Founder, Discusses The ‘Need And The Embarrassment’
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/war-on-poverty-food-stamps_n_4561730

* https://www.biblehub.com/john/15-16.htm

Price, Paul. Letter to editor. “Letter of the day: Humphrey’s unity lesson as a remedy for today’s divisiveness” StarTribune. Minneapolis,MN. 08/16/2010. Internet. https://www.startribune.com/letter-of-the-day-humphrey-s-unity-lesson-as-a-remedy-for-today-s-divisiveness/100806114/

https://biblehub.com/1_timothy/5-18.htm
* https://www.biblehub.com/luke/16-9.htm

*Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols. Cited by https://www.nga.org/governor/orville-lothrop-freeman/

**https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/09/27/invent-the-future/

***Read on the origins of the DFL party and Freeman’s contributions. https://www.dfl.org/about/dfl-history/

**** Delaney, Arthur. Internet. HuffPost. (01/08/2014) “Jane Freeman, Widow Of Food Stamp Founder, Discusses The ‘Need And The Embarrassment’
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/war-on-poverty-food-stamps_n_4561730

Standard