Most Minnesotans know Ritchie as a former secretary of state. Because up to two-thirds of that role is working with Minnesota businesses, Ritchie gained great insight into the importance of global trade to our state’s economy. He also built on a proud legacy of high — in fact, often the nation’s highest — voter turnout, so he deeply appreciates the unique level of civic involvement by so many Minnesotans.
Although secretary of state is an elected position, and he ran as a DFLer, in his new role Ritchie will reflect Global Minnesota’s nonpartisan, nonprofit status — which is among the reasons why the organization and the Editorial Board have a content partnership. Ritchie’s nonpartisan approach was evident in his dogged leadership to land a World Fair Expo in Minnesota. The state didn’t get the 2023 version, but is focusing on 2027, and Ritchie’s continued board membership for that effort will benefit the state — and Global Minnesota.
Ritchie realizes he has big, even legendary, shoes to fill: Carol Engebretson Byrne led Global Minnesota (formerly the Minnesota International Center) for 21 years with the kind of élan seen from the diplomats and global business and foreign-policy leaders who recognize the organization as one of the top 10 world affairs councils in the country. In fact, Byrne is the only leader of the 96 World Affairs Councils of America chapters to receive the highest honor from WACA, the Foreign Policy Association, and Global Ties, the State Department arm that runs the International Visitors Leadership Program.
Under Byrne’s tenure, Minnesota is one of the nation’s top destinations for visiting world leaders, with Global Minnesota hosting over 400 IVLP participants last year. What’s more, Global Minnesota has the country’s most robust “Great Decisions” discussions programs.
Neither Byrne nor Ritchie wanted to focus on individual accomplishments in interviews with an editorial writer, but instead emphasized how Global Minnesota can help advance international engagement, which is particularly important amid retreat in today’s political environment.
“The pendulum is swinging in a different direction now, but I hope it swings back,” Byrne said. “This is our world today; it is interconnected, we are interdependent. … We are a microcosm of the world. It is so important for us to understand different cultures.”
Byrne is right about the need to understand new cultures — and those new Minnesotans who enrich our culture and our economy. At a time when Minnesota multinational corporations are increasingly dependent on exports, and agriculture and mining sectors are directly affected by global trade trends, it is more important than ever for the state to remain a national leader in embracing internationalism.
“We have invested both public and private resources in the infrastructure that makes us uniquely positioned to take advantage of the globalization that comes with the communications revolution, the transportation revolution,” Ritchie said, mentioning just two era-shaping transformations.
Global Minnesota is thus an essential institution for all the state’s citizens.
“This reputation for being a welcoming, global-minded place did not drop from the sky,” Ritchie said. “People who believed that was the best path forward, the most innovative and prosperity-creating approach, said we need an organization that keeps that alive and advancing, going forward, for the next generation.”
Byrne, a key leader in these efforts, leaves an admirable legacy for Ritchie to build upon.