I was born in Eagan, MN, and went to Eagan High School where I was active in choir, speech, and theater, among many other activities. I started to get involved politically when our conservative school board threatened to remove Gordon Parks ‘The Learning Tree’ from the classroom due to it’s ‘foul’ language. It was a book written by a black man in the voice of a black man to talk about the life of a black man. There was no vulgarity in that. It was a well regarded book by an author with local ties and was a work deserving of celebration. I helped organize a group of students to speak at the school board meeting lobbying for non-censorship. It set a path where I became more of an activist, promoting condoms in the hallways in recognition of World AIDS Day, walking out of school to protest the first Iraq War, picking up garbage on the highway for Earth Day, and then in college when I was active in organizing protestors against the firing of tenured professors. I carry those formative experiences forward to today for a variety of causes and think engaging kids in policy and political action is important to their development as citizens.
My parents divorced when I was three, so to my memory my earliest years were spent living with my single mom in my grandparents house in Burnsville. Those are memories that I treasure forever. I take from that time a deep appreciation for my elders and the lessons they have learned. My family ranged from the deeply liberal to the deeply conservative, the deeply religious to the deeply agnostic, and no holiday was complete without a good argument. It was in this environment that I learned that there is value in listening to all sides. I bring those lessons learned into my personal and political life.
Living with a single mom who sacrificed so much to make sure we always had a roof over our heads and food on the table taught me so much about strength, resiliency, honesty, and the struggles of being a woman in a sexist world. We had our financial struggles but she always managed to find a way through, often with the help of others. I split time with my dad growing up, who was a union boilermaker and had a very traditional view of family life. He focused a lot on ethics and responsibility. From my dad I take his blue collar work ethic, following a principled and thoughtful path, as well as the value of and responsibility to family and community. He lives in Richfield today. I hear his concern and the concern of other older generations who wish to live in their homes for as long as they can, and sometimes require support to do so. I support that aim completely.
I believe that everyone does good in their life and everyone does bad but if we all work to make the world a better place throughout our lives then we can be assured that we left the world better than when we found it. That’s what I strive for and is largely what led me to where I stand today with a wife and children I love, and doing what I can to help make this world a better place.
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