Before multiple sclerosis required him to use a wheelchair, Rep. Rod Hamilton had occasionally enjoyed climbing the spiral stairs that start on the Minnesota State Capitol’s third floor and lead to a rooftop overlook that offers a breathtaking view, not to mention a close-up of the building’s famed golden horses.
So while he was delighted that a favorite spot at the Capitol was the setting chosen for a Republican legislators’ group photo on Monday, Hamilton resigned himself to not being part of it. Getting a 190-pound guy in a wheelchair up those twisting stairs wasn’t going to happen, he figured. “Just Photoshop me in. It’s fine,” said the eight-termer from tiny Mountain Lake.
What Hamilton didn’t count on was the can-do attitude of his colleagues. Their response: “No way, Hamilton. We’re all in this together.” And that’s how one of the 2019 session’s most inspiring moments came to be.
The group photo, shared by Rep. Joe McDonald on Twitter, shows Hamilton beaming in the front of the sunlit group. What it doesn’t show is the muscle needed to get him and his chair up there — then back down those stairs, which were narrower than anybody remembered.
Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, and about six other legislators volunteered for the mission. On the way up, there was huffing and puffing and good-natured ribbing about needing to get into better shape. After the photo, the volunteers jokingly told Hamilton he’d have to find his own way back down. Hamilton exacted his revenge on the descent by smacking the wall with hand and complaining to the crew that they’d hit his head on the low ceiling above the stairs. “We had to have a little fun,’’ Hamilton said.
The legislator posted his own photo on Twitter, making clear how much it meant to be included. “I hadn’t been up there in years and didn’t think I would ever make it up again,” he wrote.
There’s an obvious lesson to be drawn about the value of teamwork. Minnesota’s citizen legislators converge on St. Paul each year with differing aims, which sometimes leads to sharp rhetoric and hard feelings. But they are more than policy combatants — they are caring parents, grandparents, community leaders and, as Hamilton knows well, valued friends.
The end of the session brings exhaustion and frayed nerves. There’s no better time than now to remember that the Capitol, as Hamilton puts it, is filled with “good people.”