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

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20th Century, Culture, Economics, Governors, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Politics, Uncategorized

Petersen Becomes Governor

Unknown

August 19, 1936

“Hjalmar Petersen takes office as the state’s 23rd governor upon the death of Governor Floyd B. Olson. Following his short stint as governor, Petersen tries and fails four times to regain the office.” *

“Hjalmer Petersen, the twenty-third governor of Minnesota, was born in Eskildstrup, Denmark on January 2, 1890. His education was limited and attained in the common schools of Denmark and Minnesota. At fourteen years old, he left school and went to work in the newspaper business, eventually founding the Askov American in 1914, a newspaper he owned the rest of his life. Petersen first entered politics as the clerk and then mayor of Askov. He also served as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1930 to 1934, and was the lieutenant governor of Minnesota from 1934 to 1936. On August 22, 1936, Governor Floyd B. Olson died in office, and Petersen, who was the lieutenant governor at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship. During his tenure, the federal unemployment insurance law was initiated; several labor disputes were dealt with; and significant judicial appointments were approved. After serving 134 days as governor, Petersen left office on January 2, 1936. He continued to stay politically active, serving as a member of the State Railroad and Warehouse Commission, a position he held until 1966. He also made several unsuccessful bids for the governor’s office, as well as a 1958 run for the U.S. Senate. Governor Hjalmar Petersen passed away on March 29, 1968 in Columbus, Ohio.” ** 

What did Governor Petersen’s keystone legislation of unemployment look like in his era? Minnesotans who were discharged through no fault of their own were to receive $15 a week for up to 16 weeks as of May 1,1938.*** See the table below to compare and contrast what this amount meant to a worker back  at its commencement.****

cost-of-living-1-768x1024

Shall we pray? Lord, we give You thanks for being the Governor of All, for being our shield and very great reward! We agree with Your covenant promises in Genesis 15 to Abraham and his children that Your favor is greater than the sum of all property, labor, and accomplishments. We remember and bless Your eternal words, and Your heart of unmerited goodness to all who believe!

Will You forgive us our broken trust in Your provision both in Governor Petersen’s era, and in the present? We have accepted wealth from the state that it does not create or own, but extracted from our neighbors. We have accepted the premise that our present condition of dysfunction becomes the problem of our functional neighbors. Will You forgive us this faulty logic and co-dependent relationship(s)?

What if the state had made unemployment insurance voluntary instead of mandatory? We can see at least three immediate benefits immediately from this premise. First, it would allow contributors to share their wealth freely with a true spirit of giving instead of the spirit of extortion through forced charity collected by the state. 

Secondly, it would remove politicians from the direct relationship between those with extra and those in need. Maybe this would remove a sense of entitlement of guaranteed benefits, and enable a sense of gratitude and trust towards givers from receivers because they would have no expectations?

Third, it would displace politicians’ from the false narrative that they were the givers of wealth, and undercut the credit they have taken for the gifts of others.

Will You forgive us for trusting in the politicians of Minnesota, and the provisions forced on our neighbor by the co-dependent law of unemployment insurance? We have assumed a co-dependent relationship between giver and receiver and state. Will You help us revisit these issues and remove the expectations, dependency, shame, and manipulation from helping each other? Will You remove what is false and create real relationship, real opportunity to give from the heart, and real gratitude? Will You fulfill the good intentions and desires of Hjalmer Petersen on Your terms, and show us a better, more honest way to love our unemployed neighbor?

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** https://www.nga.org/governor/hjalmar-petersen/ 

citing 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.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v48n10/v48n10p22.pdf

**** http://www.mybudget360.com/cost-of-living-1938-to-2015-inflation-history-cost-of-goods-inflation/

 

 

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20th Century, Governors, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Politics, Prayer, State Government

Burnquist Becomes Governor 1915

J.A.A. Burnquist

December 30, 1915

“J. A. A. Burnquist takes office as the states’ 19th governor upon the death of Governor Winfield S. Hammond.” *

Below are a few tidbits from our state’s archive underscoring the career of Governor Jospeh Alfred Arner Burnquist’s career as a statesman. 

“When Governor Hammond died on December 30, 1915, Burnquist

became the 19th governor of Minnesota. Although many people referred to 36-year-old Burnquist as “just a youngster,” he was the successful candidate for governor in 1916, and was continued in office until 1921. Governor Burnquist recommended and worked for many important laws which are still extant.”**

“Let it be also noted that he had the second longest career as Attorney General at sixteen years and one day. He listened to dissent and “always respected the right of each member of his staff to have an opinion and to hold to it” resulting in “many sound opinions.” **

So we remember these characteristics to You, Eternal Governor. We give thanks for Burnquist’s leadership, especially the example of listening to objections. Thank You that we are blessed by leaders who will listen and consider voices of objections. Thank You that his leadership, spanning the breadth of WWI, gave solidity to the peoples of Minnesota during the trials of war. 

We ask forgiveness of our failures, then and today, of hearing our neighbors’ voice, and more importantly, Your voice, that is prompting us to reconsider our position. Will You forgive us making an idol of our opinion? We have failed You and our neighbors by breaking relationship by closing our ears! Have mercy!

Will You remake us to be both an opinionated and considerate State? Will You bless our leaders to grow in discernment? May we neither betray our heart, or the hearts of those we lead. May our future be blessed with: accommodating, magnanimous, sympathetic, complaisant, and kindly decisions and judgments. Amen!

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

**https://www.leg.state.mn.us/archive/LegDB/Articles/11509LMTribute.pdf

 

 

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20th Century, Faith, Governors, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Politics, Republican, State Government

Eberhart Becomes Governor 1909

Unknown

September 21, 1909

“Adolph Olson Eberhart takes office as the state’s 17th governor upon the death of Governor John A. Johnson. Eberhart was subsequently elected twice on his own merits.” *

It’s a timeless challenge to any society, during any period in human history, to change their leaders and maintain a continuity of authority. When a sibling stands in for mom or dad, they usually aren’t received with the same respect. The same goes for an anonymous lieutenant governor, Eberhart, suddenly thrust into prominence.

Events like these seem to underscore the importance of relationship and authority. We give our allegiance more easily to those whom we know. It seems a logical and reasonable unwritten precept of our survival instincts. We gain trust through consistent and positive relational knowledge of our neighbor.

I thank You that Governor Eberhart was up to the task. I don’t know the details of how he won the populace of Minnesota over, but it is recorded that he did. And he repeated his success twice.** Perhaps it was his consistent work ethic and and stalwart service to his constituents.

Author of authority, thank You for Eberhart’s continuity. Will You bless those who stand in a gap such as him? Will You bless those leaders who are challenged at every step, but simply follow the plan? Thank You for leaders who are not subject to reward, recognition, or favor-seeking. Bless those who lead because it is their nature!

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

**https://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_minnesota/col2-content/main-content-list/title_eberhart_adolph.html

 

 

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