Minnesota has a long, rich history both of cooperation and involved corporate citizenry. Those two elements have come together in a very public effort to create a culture that includes those of the Muslim faith and discourages the tide of bigotry and hate fanned by some.
Disgusted by the anti-Muslim fervor showing up in the presidential race and elsewhere, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and American Muslim, teamed up with Republican businessman John Taft, a great-grandson of President William Howard Taft. Together, they reached out to political and business types to create a statement they hope will spark a movement.
In a full-page ad in Monday’s Star Tribune, more than 50 well-known Minnesotans from all walks stated that “though we may be a soft-spoken bunch, we know better than to be silent or still in the face of bigotry shown to Muslims. … We must come together as a diverse and vibrant community. If you’re a Minnesotan, you know this to be true … We can’t be tricked into betraying our values. It’d be so very un-Minnesotan of us.”
The signatures included political figures such as DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and former Republican U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger as well as leaders of some of Minnesota’s largest businesses: Cargill’s David MacLennan; Ken Powell of General Mills; Hubert Joly of Best Buy; John Noseworthy of the Mayo Clinic; Mary Brainerd of HealthPartners; Omar Ishrak of Medtronic; Randall Hogan of Pentair, and others.
It says much of Minnesota that corporate heads here would wade into one of the country’s most controversial issues and take a firm stand for inclusion and against hatred based on religious beliefs and ethnicity. Ellison said it wasn’t hard to gain broad support. “We have a corporate sector with a strong sense of social responsibility,” he said. “We are saying as a group we stand together on tolerance and acceptance of all people and refuse to indulge in any scapegoating.”
There are no plans for a formal campaign. Just a hope that Minnesotans will see the message, start talking to those they know and — neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend — break down the barriers and create a welcoming space for those already among us.
Brainerd set an example Monday by sending a message about the ad to more than 2,000 HealthPartners supervisors. “We’re doing something constructive and it makes you proud to be a Minnesotan,” she said. “ … We want people to come together and with a shared voice say we are not going to be a place where Muslims are not welcome.”
Go, talk to your neighbor. Show the country what it means to be a Minnesotan.