Governor-elect Mark Dayton: champion of change for all


Ron Edwards

After escaping slavery, Frederic Douglass wrote, in 1852, that we are an exceptional nation and people because of the “principles” of our Declaration of Independence that are “saving principles.” He urged the nation to “Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions…,” just as Martin Luther King called on us to be faithful to the declaration’s creed in his dream speech.

Douglass called the Constitution “a glorious liberty document” and says it was “not intended to be a slave-holding instrument,” as it does not contain the words “slavery, slaveholding nor slave…in it.”

It is within this context that I offer congratulations to Governor-elect Mark Dayton on becoming our 40th governor, re-energizing his political career after leaving the Senate in 2007. Senator Dayton had a plan for a cabinet-level department of peace. We urge him to bring his plan of constitutional principles to Minnesota.

It is time for the Urban League, NAACP, and Black-leadership groups to read my essays on planning in my books and columns, which counter their whining and crying about not having access to governors, as if “governor” meant savior. It does not. But we do need the Daytons’ family legacy of championing right and doing the right thing, and to bring the power of that Dayton-Minnesota lore to bear, to make up for the fact that many of our Minneapolis problems have been delivered by the DFL.

Mark Dayton’s grandfather started Dayton’s department store. His dad and four uncles turned it into a retail empire that included Target, Mervyn’s and Marshall Field’s. In 1946, his uncle, Ken Dayton, committed the company to a level of philanthropy not seen before in business circles, setting the standard of giving five percent of its pre-tax profits to the community, lamenting more businesses did not do so as well.

We urge Governor-elect Dayton to bring that level of standard back to the state of Minnesota, perhaps with the help of the Dayton philanthropic trust, which could help develop plans to reflect positive visions for education, economic development, jobs, housing and investment in the African American community.

We need him to lead the state through the next great budget and safety-net crisis. As 60 Minutes reported December 19, 2010, the coming “financial meltdown in state and local governments” is not so much an income problem as it is a benefits problem ($1 trillion nationwide), caused by public employees who keep getting awarded unfunded pensions and healthcare benefits promises at taxpayer expense, benefits taxpayers don’t get.

Black leaders must not play this governor for a fool or as one who does not have a history and understanding of the problems and visions facing Minnesota’s African American communities. This is as an opportunity for Minnesota to embrace the visions of Nellie Stone Johnson, Cecil Newman and other great legends in the struggle for African American inclusion.

Nellie and Cecil worked with Hubert Humphrey, who was viewed by the Daytons as a true visionary who understood what was needed to deliver effective programs with compassion and success. This is the standard we can expect when this governor takes his reins of power.

Yes, he will have a Republican legislature. So yes, there will be give and take. Our Black leadership wants us to believe they are seasoned players and understand this art of compromise. Now is the time to prove it. The ball is in their court.

As we enter 2011, and its new legislative session, it is time that the ecumenical communities, the social service communities and those who say they represent the brightest thinking in the African American community rise to the occasion. Will they? Or will they merely work to get theirs at the expense of the rest of us? We look to Governor-elect Dayton to implement the best that our political and governmental institutions are capable of, for all our communities.

Cecil, Nellie and Hubert would want to see the opportunity fulfilled of delivering success and achieve the framer’s principles for full equality of access and opportunity for all. We know the city has not followed its own diversity statutes for years (see my columns of Nov 17 and 24, and December 15, 2010). What standard will now be set for 2011?

You will find lists of my columns and book chapters on my standards and on planning for all communities of Minneapolis — Black and White — at this link:

Stay tuned, and may God bless Black as well as White Minnesotans during this holiday season.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at

Hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at