On Thursday, Minnesota and our country lost another great man in former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad. A true statesman and man of great faith, Jim joins his former colleagues Elijah Cummings and John Lewis as three pillars of our House of Representatives whose historic contributions will endure for generations.

As a lifelong Democrat, I always — and I mean always — voted for my friend, Jim Ramstad. One of Jim's hallmark characteristics was his ability to work effectively on both sides of the aisle. As such, I have no doubt that Jim would have been a true asset in today's political climate.

Over the past 12 or 13 years, in talking with Jim — and, more important, learning from him by observing his behavior, Jim became someone who helped me to consolidate my own perspectives on leadership. That is to say, it became clearer and clearer to me that decency, humility and ethicality top any "qualities of character" lists meant to define the most important ingredients in a great leader. Jim possessed these vital qualities, and many more.

Speaking of humility, I always found it humorous — but, I have to admit, somewhat gratifying — that Jim, of all people, despite his myriad accomplishments, would refer to me as "Mr. President," simply because of a professional role I occupied, before retirement, in a nonprofit institution. And he was being sincere. Indeed, Jim's decency and humility — to say nothing of his ethicality — touched everyone with whom he came in contact.

On Thursday, the Star Tribune reported that Jim was open about his own alcoholism and recovery. And I daresay his friends and family were just as proud as Jim of the final 30 years of his life when he soberly dedicated himself to the betterment of others and his country overall. There's a famous quotation: "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." I have every confidence that if you would have had the privilege of asking Congressman Ramstad about the second day, he would have had the self-awareness to easily tell you both the date and time. Rest in peace, Jim.

Dan Haugen, Plymouth

Celebrate with the same grace

May I suggest to those of us celebrating a Democratic victory that we remember the wise words of a great Republican president:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Barbara Weller, St. Paul
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Bruce Lemke, Orono
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My late mother had an expression — kind of a companion to "when you have dug yourself in a hole the first step is to stop digging" that was: "When you have tipped the chair back too far, go down bravely and valiantly not clutching at the table cloth and bringing the dishes and gravy down with you."

There might be a message in there for President Donald Trump. Spending the next two-plus months delivering thoughtful, just and charitable pardons and commutations; reaching out to Americans facing COVID financial and housing crises; and preparing for a smooth transition could validate his 70 million-plus voters' support and perhaps leave a question in the minds of the 75 million Americans who did not vote for him of what might have been had he made different decisions earlier.

Bruce Schelske, Burnsville

The key constituencies revealed: Today's DFLers — and dog lovers

We are living through an era of name-changing. Lakes, schools, and parks are undergoing the process. Rhode Islanders voted Tuesday to alter their state's official name (removing the words "and Providence Plantations.")

Let me propose another. The past few election cycles have shown that the DFL no longer is the party of most farmers and blue-collar laborers. Many "Fs" and "Ls" have left the party; others say the party left them. Now might be the time for party leaders to acknowledge this shift by changing the party's name to reflect its new major constituencies: metro-area dwellers, government employees and minorities.

George Woytanowitz, Minneapolis
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I spent part of Election Day outside of a busy emergency vet hospital, as my sweet but ailing senior chihuahua was being examined for a serious heart issue. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, I couldn't be with her for the examination. My little dog ended up passing away an hour later. To cheer up from her loss and also de-stress from the plethora of network election analysis, I drove to my favorite bakery for some sugary scones in south Minneapolis. I must have driven past more than 100 election signs. Some read "Trump," though I noticed more were for Biden.

Yet the yard signs that really caught my eye were those that read "DOGS 2020!" In spite of the loss of my own pup, my prediction is that dogs may be the only true winners in this challenging year of COVID-19 and one crazy election. After all, most of their owners are spoiling their dogs while working at home and dog adoptions have clearly skyrocketed. It couldn't happen to a nicer group of animals. Although the cat population may beg to differ. Let's just hope they don't ask for a recount.

Jacquelyn N. Campbell, St. Louis Park

I spy a connection

The front page of the Nov. 1 Minnesota section carried two stories involving young people. One illuminates the epidemic of youngsters committing violent crimes in the Twin Cities, and the other regards the land redevelopment of Boys Totem Town. The former article cites Ramsey County Undersheriff Mike Martin's criticism of current juvenile detention alternatives and their failure to jail teens overnight; the same teens are chased several times a night, wasting police resources. "There's no disincentive," he claims.

The latter article states why Totem Town was closed: "declining juvenile crime and a consensus that troubled teens do better when they get treatment in their own communities." Reality begs to differ. It would appear that we need Boys Totem Town now, more than ever.

Paul Lauer, St. Paul