Monday, September 18, 2006

Moving Our Region Ahead

In our changing world, facing serious, social, economic and environmental challenges,
can our Twin Cities region provide a high quality of life for everyone? Can we educate all our children? Maintain high-quality housing? Maintain high levels of health? Eliminate racial disparities in education and employment? Stand out prominently as a strong, competitive economic region?

I believe that we can do all these things, but it requires:
· Focusing our attention on significant trends and not getting sidetracked.
· Understanding key ingredients for community vitality.
· Developing a common vision and goals.
· Identifying strategies that fit diverse people and communities.
· Connecting people from all communities to attain our common goals.

A new initiative sponsored by a consortium* of foundations and United Way, and carried out by Wilder Research, is establishing a process to accomplish this. How?

First, the initiative will provide region-wide indicators about topics such as health, education, housing, and economics, so that all members of our region have access to nonpartisan, credible, and useful information.

Second, it will alert policy makers, community leaders, and the public of significant trends and motivate them to take action.

Third, the initiative will support the creation of task forces to address significant findings. If work on early education – to ensure educated citizens and workers – is what’s needed, the initiative will support that effort. If disparities have a cancerous effect on our region, it will support efforts to reduce them.

It is important to keep the focus on trends and goals. Good public policy and effective community action require credible information and analysis.

If we can achieve consensus on overall goals — e.g., all children should start school ready to learn and graduate 12 years later --- and provide sound, nonpartisan facts about how well we meet these goals, then we can discuss ways to improve. People with different backgrounds, priorities and political opinions, will differ on strategies and solutions. That makes for productive debate; arguing over facts does not. We can elevate public discourse and involve all members of our region to participate in creating a prosperous regional future.

* Bush Foundation, Greater Twin Cities United Way, The McKnight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, The Saint Paul Foundation, 3M Foundation, St. Paul Travelers Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, and Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11 - Five years later

The day after September 11, I sent an email to colleagues and friends. On this fifth anniversary, I have reprinted it, with slight editing, because I think its key themes are still very valid. We must promote understanding and respect among people from different backgrounds and different parts of the world. Otherwise, September 11 will continue to repeat itself.


The tragic events of September 11, 2001, will have an emotional toll on all of us. Some of us know people who were killed or injured by the terrorists. My family and close relatives were very fortunate. My brother stood in the street by the World Trade Center when one of the planes hit. He literally had to run for his life to avoid the falling debris. Some people near him did not make it. My nephew, who works in the WTC, was on the ground floor when the explosion occurred. A few minutes later, he would have been up in the Tower. He ran to safety as well. My cousin, a colonel at the Pentagon, was on duty when the attack occurred. He survived. Unfortunately, at least one friend of my brother was killed; and several friends and neighbors of my family (who live in the New York area) are missing and presumed dead.

It comes naturally to feel anger now, but that should not interfere with our reason and compassion. Certainly, the perpetrators should come to justice. We must pursue the terrorists and those who support them. However, we need to be forgiving of the people who get caught up in a vicious cycle of hatred, without ever hearing the truth, and without ever coming into contact with the people they have been trained to hate. Violent retribution will not cure this hatred; it will only contain it in the short run. If there is a long term cure, it lies in the promotion of communication among conflicted groups, the promotion of justice, and the promotion of peaceful coexistence.

These events should make us all the more committed to the work of the Wilder Foundation. Our work promotes justice. Our work attempts to reduce prejudice. Our work seeks to remedy social problems and reduce inequalities. Our work brings people together to see their common human interests and to build communities that meet everyone's needs. We might think that this effort just makes a difference on a small scale. However, in reality, the problems of the world will not be solved through high level diplomatic meetings. Nor will they be solved through wars. They will be solved when ordinary people work on a local level to understand one another and to get along with one another. That's what we promote when we serve the needy in one community, when we strengthen neighborhoods and organizations to enable them to serve others, and when we promote policies that enhance the lives of all. If enough of this work occurs in localities throughout the world - that's when the hatred that breeds terrorism will diminish and hopefully disappear.