Stand Up Minnesota:
Stories of Activism

It was strangely difficult to get people to answer the question posed. The topic was, “how are you politically active?” I must have asked at least 40 people personally and only got a few brave souls to reply, and I can only guess that 1) people are just too busy being active politically to answer a few questions. More likely it’s 2) they don’t think what they’re doing is important enough to make a fuss over.

Every effort counts, no matter how small or ordinary you may think it is. Actions build up, one on top of the other and turn into a movement, and Stand Up Minnesota is a very active group. We have over 30,000 members from all over the state and country, and with each person doing whatever they can, whenever they can, we can really make a difference.

You can see examples of individual action just by scrolling down the SUM Facebook feed:

… A SUM member made the initial speech before at their a no-show town hall without their congressman. …Another SUM member drove three hours alone to get to the St. Paul Women’s March. …Another member, too shy to go, nevertheless talks back to republican bullies on her Facebook feed. …An introverted SUM member called her congressman and stammered through a pre-written script. …SUM members attended the Senate Finance Meeting at the state capitol to testify about a gerrymandering bill.

People who have never been politically active before are now attending their local SUM chapter meetings in Richfield, Mankato, Brainerd and other parts of Minnesota.

It helps others when you share your experiences. You can inspire other people and you might learn something new. Not everyone in Stand Up Minnesota has Facebook, so please write about their experiences and post them here on the SUM Voices page.

This is your page. What have you been doing? Do you have a story to tell? A cause or a group you’d like to publicize? Did you take a memorable photo at a protest, or are you getting politically active for the first time? Your examples and stories can inspire other people to act, or give them a of a new way to approach a problem. You can inspire someone to try something new, to pick up that phone and make their first phone call, or to decide that yes, they are going to run for office because that’s where they can do the most good.

We look forward to hearing from more of you, and would like to thank our first few participants for sharing their stories:

 

Helen M.: “I believe in justice”

Annie L. started her own political activism group

Jackie J.: “Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. Believe in yourself.”

Mia O.: her family prepared her to Stand Up politically

Michelle L.: award-winning newslady, now activist

Meg C.: “…the place to start was my home, my district.”


Helen M.
“I believe in justice.”

Stand Up Minnesota


How are you politically active? locally? nationally?
I was very active in my teens and twenties focused primarily on Vietnam and Women’s reproductive rights. In my 30’s I worked locally with various childcare organizations to promote safe, developmentally appropriate care.

Now that I have retired I am getting more vocal and active with regards to good government. As I currently have mobility issues I am focusing on contacting my reps and senators locally and nationally via phone, social media, and postcards. I also have begun attending Town Halls for the first time.

Do you belong to any other political groups besides Stand Up Minnesota?
I have been a member of Pantsuit Nation and the DFL.

What inspires you into action?
Two things: First, I recognize the grudge work that goes into governing at local, state and national levels after working 20 years in state government. Our legislators and their staffs are human beings. As a result, it is important to provide them with feedback, support when the show courage and recognition of what they do. With the current political nightmare nationally, it would be easy to ignore our local governance since it runs fairly smoothly and not all that far to the left or right. But we’ve seen how fast government can change from good to bad. So I plan to call on issues to support and champion my local reps to keep honest, keep open to feedback and represent us.

I have a Republican Rep as of this election. I plan to cheer him on to those bills that need support and encourage him to vote against those bills that diminish our lives and civic peace.

My second reason, and more idealistic, is that I believe in justice. There is a quote from Exodus: “Justice, Justice shalt thou pursue.” It is said that justice was repeated twice because that is how important it is. The companion commentary says: “You are not required to finish your work, yet neither are you permitted to desist from it.”

I take it to heart that justice must be pursued even when it seems hopeless, and also that if enough of us continue the outcomes are better. Most of all, I use the three ethical questions:

“If I am not for myself, who will be? I seek justice for myself when I stand up for issues affecting my life.

If I am for myself alone, what am I? Seeking justice for the stranger, widow, poor are all part of the covenant of being human. Whether one is religious, atheist or agnostic, the covenant of kinship with each other is what we promise each other.”

If not now, when? When I worked in government I needed to avoid broad public political action. At that time, it was all I could reasonably do. Now that I am retired I need to grasp opportunities to work for the good of us all when they appear. Knowing when to act and when to rest are important when answering when action by me is called for and doable.

Do you have any unique experiences or stories regarding your political activities?
I did attend the Gay Pride demonstration at the capitol back in the early 2000’s. I was standing there munching on donuts in front of the steps on the boulevard. We saw a woman in a light-colored sleeveless shift and white heels crouching in the bushes with a photographer. I found out later it was Michele Bachmann. And I have brought forward an amendment to a state law that was picked up by the House and eventually was approved and put into law. It takes a great deal of patience to see that happen!

Annie L.
Started her own political activism group

How are you politically active? Locally? Nationally?
I am politically active in a variety of ways. Personally, I am an avid consumer of research and media. I make sure to use reputable sources and check those sources. I feel our first line of defense in an accurate assessment and representation of the problems we face. I maintain contact with the resistance through internet group on Facebook and Twitter. I find this is a great way to share information and ideas, as well as find the concerns that others have. I like to be an active participant and maintain momentum by going to events. The energy of our movement is intoxicating. As such, I have attended the National Woman’s March and local rallies in support of Planned Parenthood. I intend to go to the Tax March and the Science March. Finally, I complete local and national items of action daily by calling and writing my government officials.

Do you belong to any other political groups besides Stand Up Minnesota?
In addition to Stand Up Minnesota, I started an action-focused group on Facebook. We are a secret group. We started out of a need to address a local issue and other members of the group and I were receiving threatening and harassing correspondence. The purpose of our group is dynamic but at the core, we wanted to be active. Nearly all our posts are action items, with very little news or memes. I am working with a great group of women tracking local legislation and making action items; each day I wake up and find and/or make an action item, then I post the action items to my group, to Stand Up Minnesota, and a variety of other groups. Our ultimate goal is to turn Accountability Through Action into a nonprofit for crowdsourcing efforts for our beloved democrats in red states and counties. We also hope to find potential candidates to run for office, particularly women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community. This is a crazy goal but always in our minds. We always welcome more members. However, we are a secret group and you must be invited by a member who is also Facebook friend.

What inspires you into action?
I grew up in privilege. While I am a woman, I am a white woman, and I was raised in a wealthy family. I had no idea the struggles I faced or that of others. I attended a woman’s college and found that I was deeply concerned about women and other individuals who face discrimination. Nevertheless, even though I understood the issues, I am not sure I ever felt insecure in my country. This passion has been growing inside me for many years, but it peaked with the hope and the ultimate insult of this past election. I actually woke up, in tears, realizing my country didn’t love or value me; it didn’t love of value most any of my brothers or sisters. I guess, I always knew that, but I had hoped we had progressed. It reminds me of homeostasis. We had made progress and the legacy of white male privilege created the largest backlash I have ever witnessed. This idea is best expressed in the book by Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Hands down, this is the book that changed my life.

Do you have any unique experiences or stories regarding your political activities?
As I highlighted previously, the group Accountability Through Action was developed out of concern for a local issue. We branched out of Stand Up Minnesota as we wanted to take more direct action. This decision brought a lot of in-fighting, but more concerning, it brought on the harassment from local government officials. This story is what led me to contact the Huffington Post and our story was published to bring awareness to the dangers women face in online communities. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/online-harassment-against-women-in-the-trump-era_us_58446a1de4b0cf3f64558af0. Editor.)

Thank you for inviting my participation. I want to be clear, that while we are a separate group, we are part of the SUM community and look forward to our continued collaboration.


Jackie J.
Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. Believe in yourself.


Stand Up Minnesota Activism


How are you politically active? Locally? Nationally?
I have been active in DFL politics since 1968. I attended a rally for Hubert Humphrey in Waverly the day after he won the endorsement for president. Later, my husband and I were so disappointed that Nixon won that we decided to get involved. We eventually ended up as district chairs and both of us were members of the DFL State Central Committee for about 20 years or more.

We were very active until we developed health problems and then we had to retire from so much. We stopped running for State Delegate or SCC and we only worked locally after that. My husband was in hospice for a year and yet he insisted on going to precinct caucus. We missed the one two years before because he was in the emergency room and that had been the only one we had missed since our first in 1970. He passed away November 25. He fought for two years to live and he wanted to see the first woman president elected. He was inconsolable after the election and went downhill from there. It was so hard to deal with the pain of #45 winning and seeing my husbands pain as well. He worried so much that DT would win and I kept assuring him there was no way the people would ever vote him in. He had a way of seeing things in the future and he was right. This has been a difficult time for me as we were married for 53 years and we did everything together even marching on Washington for Women in 1989. He videotaped that march. But I am still here and I am still fighting whatever way I can even with my health problems.

Do you belong to any other political group besides Stand Up Minnesota?
I am still somewhat involved in the DFL. I keep in contact with my local District 33 and with the 3rd Congressional District via Facebook. It is hard to attend meetings now.  I was on the DFL Feminist Caucus Board for 13 years until 1992 when I left to run for the state senate. I didn’t win but I made a lot of great friends along the way. My husband was on the board for 11 years and my daughter for two years. I was a member of NOW and the Abortion Rights Council before it became part of NARAL. I was very active in the Feminist movement and was a guest speaker at some meetings and organized some as well. I also trained people for the caucuses for Choice. In 2001, I was presented the DFL Woman of Distinction Award by the Woman’s Summit.

I had also been active in environmental issues (Friends of the Boundary Waters) and I was a founding member of a group called Preserve Green Acres who fought to protect farm land from landfills. I helped them organize and was their public relations person on their board for a few years. The group fought for recycling, resource recovery and to end landfills. It disbanded 13 years later because it succeeded in not only not putting anymore huge landfills in Hennepin County but all the landfills in the county got shut down. This was done on a local level and it demonstrated what could be done when people got involved in their communities.

What inspires you into action?
I think when President John Kennedy, who was one of my personal heroes, said “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.” I took that to heart. I have learned that sometimes if you wait for someone else to do something, it may not get done at all. That is what drives me. If I get angry at something like an injustice or actions that are contrary to what I believe, I feel I have to do something. These days it is harder. I have multiple health issues and while I may look healthy, I am not and I have to avoid stress. Not easy these days. But seeing people marching and seeing the events on facebook that are posted by SUM and Indivisible and other groups makes me very inspired. I want to do more but all I can do now is mentor and write and encourage those who are physically able to get out there to work. My daughter and I live together and she is also disabled. It is facebook that keeps us sane and SUM and other that help us see a better future.

Do you have any unique experiences or stories regarding your political activities?

I could write a book about those but I think I will just focus on a couple stories.

  • The first one is how I got involved in politics. I talked about why earlier. But we didn’t have the internet back then in 1968. We had TV and I had finally got a phone. Not a cell phone, just a phone. I had no clue what to do to get involved.
  • I saw an article in Family Circle magazine on ways you could be active in your community and one of them was to join a political party. So I wrote to the editor of the magazine and my letter was passed to the author of the article who wrote me and said he was going to a DNC meeting and would give my letter to the chair of the party. I then got a letter from the chair telling me to contact Warren Spannaus who was the DFL chair and later became the state Attorney General. So I wrote to Warren and our letters crossed in the mail. He said I should contact John Miller who was the Ward Chair for our area of Hennepin County. So I did and again our letters crossed in the mail as he welcomed me to the DFL and said I should contact Larry Werner our precinct chair. I did and again, our letters crossed in the mail. So Denny and I were welcomed at every level of the party back then.
  • Wards were eliminated by 1970 but still in affect in ’68. John Miller invited us to come to a district meeting in Wayzata and when we came in, he had us sit up on the council chairs in the council chambers with him and his wife who was Secretary. I was so scared. We were on a raised platform and I looked down on this small crowd of people and I didn’t understand what they were talking about. What is a caucus? What is reapportionment? One person was waving the DFL constitution around and saying that we had to go by what was in it. Later Francis served coffee and cookies. I went home so confused. I told Denny, “ I don’t know what I can do. I don’t understand any of that. I may have to learn to make coffee and help with the cookies.” But the Millers were great people and they answered our questions and we learned a lot but then got reapportioned in 1972 and met a whole new batch of people. I served on committees over the years including resolutions, the state Platform Commission, was chair of rules and constitution committees and eventually was co-chair with Justice John Tunheim before he was a judge, on the State DFL Rules Committee.
  • I didn’t learn to make coffee until last year when my husband was too ill to make his own. I tell you this because I want you to know that it is okay to ask questions. Doing something is in itself a learning experience. Observe, listen, and when you are comfortable with it, run for something. That includes state delegate. I was told I was too young to run when I was 24 but in the last couple decades I have seen very young people run and win national delegate slots. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. Believe in yourself.
  • Another story from 1970 was when I first spoke out at a convention. I was an alternate and didn’t get seated until resolutions. The abortion issue came up and I had just read that 10,000 women had died of illegal abortions in New York alone. I had to speak out. So I did. I was so scared. I felt like the blood was leaving my body. My legs shook. I thought I would faint. People that know me now might not believe me because I have given speeches and I have stood up at countless conventions to speak and as a candidate, I couldn’t be shy. I learned how to use my voice. Being courageous is often doing what is uncomfortable at the time. My speech to the convention that year was two years before Roe vs Wade. My husband and I where thrown into a senate district with Wright County so we went there and organized for choice. We became very notorious in that county.

But we had some small victories. We traveled to places like Bird Island and Marshall as we were in the old 6th district then and I organized Liberal Issues meetings at each convention we had in that old 6th district. We turned two pro-life congressmen to vote pro-choice because we showed up at their offices and we organized at conventions against them if necessary to get their attention. I look at the people I see in the marches now and am so excited that we have had this great awakening to politics again. We need to remember that we can’t just sit back and let someone else do it. It is so hard now for me and my daughter Dee but we each have taken on projects online to work on. She is working on the Standing Rock mission and spreading the word as much as she can to her friends who them share it with their friends and so on.

I am trying to encourage people to keep organizing and marching and thanking them for doing what I can no longer do. But I do spread the word via Facebook. I miss the face to face energy of being with people at times and please think about how that makes you feel when you are out there. Politics is not boring! Feel that energy! You won’t find that on Facebook or watching TV.

I am still concerned about the future and the presidency. If the president is impeached, and I think there is a big chance he will be, Pence will be very dangerous as well. Evenmoreso as he can remain calm. He isn’t so obvious in his extremism. If he gets caught up in the Russia connection, the presidency will go to Paul Ryan and that is a huge fear. I am hoping that we can pace this somehow and that Paul Ryan is targeted as the extremist he is and defeated in the midterms. But if both DT and Pence got impeached before the midterms then Ryan is in there for a long time as president. The longer this drags out, the better as long as we can keep pressure on the congress and to stop DT from really dangerous actions. The GOP want to have any impeachment done with before the midterms because they are afraid it will affect the elections. Things change from day to day.

But we need to keep up the pressure while remaining calm and be strategic. That is important. We have three terrible choices right now for president. The big thing to remember is that we the people still have power and I think the press recognizes how they made mistakes before and will put a lot of pressure on the Republicans, too. SUM isn’t a Democratic organization but change will most likely come through the Democratic party. There isn’t anywhere for our people to go in the Republican. I encourage people to consider running for office not just for the legislature but for councils, school boards and commissions as well. We need progressives at every level as decisions on our issues are made on every level. Focus on the local as much as you can because there you have the greatest impact. I am so happy to see the crowds. It really gives me such hope for the future. Thank you for your hard work. Know that you are appreciated by so many who are watching. We march with you in spirit.


How are you politically active? Locally? Nationally?
I have been active in DFL politics since 1968. I attended a rally for Hubert Humphrey in Waverly the day after he won the endorsement for president. Later, my husband and I were so disappointed that Nixon won that we decided to get involved. We eventually ended up as district chairs and both of us were members of the DFL State Central Committee for about 20 years or more.

We were very active until we developed health problems and then we had to retire from so much. We stopped running for State Delegate or SCC and we only worked locally after that. My husband was in hospice for a year and yet he insisted on going to precinct caucus. We missed the one two years before because he was in the emergency room and that had been the only one we had missed since our first in 1970. He passed away November 25. He fought for two years to live and he wanted to see the first woman president elected. He was inconsolable after the election and went downhill from there. It was so hard to deal with the pain of #45 winning and seeing my husbands pain as well. He worried so much that DT would win and I kept assuring him there was no way the people would ever vote him in. He had a way of seeing things in the future and he was right. This has been a difficult time for me as we were married for 53 years and we did everything together even marching on Washington for Women in 1989. He videotaped that march. But I am still here and I am still fighting whatever way I can even with my health problems.

Do you belong to any other political group besides Stand Up Minnesota?
I am still somewhat involved in the DFL. I keep in contact with my local District 33 and with the 3rd Congressional District via Facebook. It is hard to attend meetings now.  I was on the DFL Feminist Caucus Board for 13 years until 1992 when I left to run for the state senate. I didn’t win but I made a lot of great friends along the way. My husband was on the board for 11 years and my daughter for two years. I was a member of NOW and the Abortion Rights Council before it became part of NARAL. I was very active in the Feminist movement and was a guest speaker at some meetings and organized some as well. I also trained people for the caucuses for Choice. In 2001, I was presented the DFL Woman of Distinction Award by the Woman’s Summit.

I had also been active in environmental issues (Friends of the Boundary Waters) and I was a founding member of a group called Preserve Green Acres who fought to protect farm land from landfills. I helped them organize and was their public relations person on their board for a few years. The group fought for recycling, resource recovery and to end landfills. It disbanded 13 years later because it succeeded in not only not putting anymore huge landfills in Hennepin County but all the landfills in the county got shut down. This was done on a local level and it demonstrated what could be done when people got involved in their communities.

What inspires you into action?
I think when President John Kennedy, who was one of my personal heroes, said “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.” I took that to heart. I have learned that sometimes if you wait for someone else to do something, it may not get done at all. That is what drives me. If I get angry at something like an injustice or actions that are contrary to what I believe, I feel I have to do something. These days it is harder. I have multiple health issues and while I may look healthy, I am not and I have to avoid stress. Not easy these days. But seeing people marching and seeing the events on facebook that are posted by SUM and Indivisible and other groups makes me very inspired. I want to do more but all I can do now is mentor and write and encourage those who are physically able to get out there to work. My daughter and I live together and she is also disabled. It is facebook that keeps us sane and SUM and other that help us see a better future.

Do you have any unique experiences or stories regarding your political activities?

I could write a book about those but I think I will just focus on a couple stories.

The first one is how I got involved in politics. I talked about why earlier. But we didn’t have the internet back then in 1968. We had TV and I had finally got a phone. Not a cell phone, just a phone. I had no clue what to do to get involved.

I saw an article in Family Circle magazine on ways you could be active in your community and one of them was to join a political party. So I wrote to the editor of the magazine and my letter was passed to the author of the article who wrote me and said he was going to a DNC meeting and would give my letter to the chair of the party. I then got a letter from the chair telling me to contact Warren Spannaus who was the DFL chair and later became the state Attorney General. So I wrote to Warren and our letters crossed in the mail. He said I should contact John Miller who was the Ward Chair for our area of Hennepin County. So I did and again our letters crossed in the mail as he welcomed me to the DFL and said I should contact Larry Werner our precinct chair. I did and again, our letters crossed in the mail. So Denny and I were welcomed at every level of the party back then.

Wards were eliminated by 1970 but still in affect in ’68. John Miller invited us to come to a district meeting in Wayzata and when we came in, he had us sit up on the council chairs in the council chambers with him and his wife who was Secretary. I was so scared. We were on a raised platform and I looked down on this small crowd of people and I didn’t understand what they were talking about. What is a caucus? What is reapportionment? One person was waving the DFL constitution around and saying that we had to go by what was in it. Later Francis served coffee and cookies. I went home so confused. I told Denny, “ I don’t know what I can do. I don’t understand any of that. I may have to learn to make coffee and help with the cookies.” But the Millers were great people and they answered our questions and we learned a lot but then got reapportioned in 1972 and met a whole new batch of people. I served on committees over the years including resolutions, the state Platform Commission, was chair of rules and constitution committees and eventually was co-chair with Justice John Tunheim before he was a judge, on the State DFL Rules Committee.

I didn’t learn to make coffee until last year when my husband was too ill to make his own. I tell you this because I want you to know that it is okay to ask questions. Doing something is in itself a learning experience. Observe, listen, and when you are comfortable with it, run for something. That includes state delegate. I was told I was too young to run when I was 24 but in the last couple decades I have seen very young people run and win national delegate slots. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. Believe in yourself.

Another story from 1970 was when I first spoke out at a convention. I was an alternate and didn’t get seated until resolutions. The abortion issue came up and I had just read that 10,000 women had died of illegal abortions in New York alone. I had to speak out. So I did. I was so scared. I felt like the blood was leaving my body. My legs shook. I thought I would faint. People that know me now might not believe me because I have given speeches and I have stood up at countless conventions to speak and as a candidate, I couldn’t be shy. I learned how to use my voice. Being courageous is often doing what is uncomfortable at the time. My speech to the convention that year was two years before Roe vs Wade. My husband and I were thrown into a senate district with Wright County so we went there and organized for choice. We became very notorious in that county.

But we had some small victories. We traveled to places like Bird Island and Marshall as we were in the old 6th district then and I organized Liberal Issues meetings at each convention we had in that old 6th district. We turned two pro-life congressmen to vote pro-choice because we showed up at their offices and we organized at conventions against them if necessary to get their attention. I look at the people I see in the marches now and am so excited that we have had this great awakening to politics again. We need to remember that we can’t just sit back and let someone else do it. It is so hard now for me and my daughter Dee but we each have taken on projects online to work on. She is working on the Standing Rock mission and spreading the word as much as she can to her friends who them share it with their friends and so on.

I am trying to encourage people to keep organizing and marching and thanking them for doing what I can no longer do. But I do spread the word via Facebook. I miss the face to face energy of being with people at times and please think about how that makes you feel when you are out there. Politics is not boring! Feel that energy! You won’t find that on Facebook or watching TV.

I am still concerned about the future and the presidency. If the president is impeached, and I think there is a big chance he will be, Pence will be very dangerous as well. Evenmoreso as he can remain calm. He isn’t so obvious in his extremism. If he gets caught up in the Russia connection, the presidency will go to Paul Ryan and that is a huge fear. I am hoping that we can pace this somehow and that Paul Ryan is targeted as the extremist he is and defeated in the midterms. But if both DT and Pence got impeached before the midterms then Ryan is in there for a long time as president. The longer this drags out, the better as long as we can keep pressure on the congress and to stop DT from really dangerous actions. The GOP want to have any impeachment done with before the midterms because they are afraid it will affect the elections. Things change from day to day.

We need to keep up the pressure while remaining calm and be strategic. That is important. We have three terrible choices right now for president. The big thing to remember is that we the people still have power and I think the press recognizes how they made mistakes before and will put a lot of pressure on the Republicans, too. SUM isn’t a Democratic organization but change will most likely come through the Democratic party. There isn’t anywhere for our people to go in the Republican. I encourage people to consider running for office not just for the legislature but for councils, school boards and commissions as well. We need progressives at every level as decisions on our issues are made on every level. Focus on the local as much as you can because there you have the greatest impact. I am so happy to see the crowds. It really gives me such hope for the future. Thank you for your hard work. Know that you are appreciated by so many who are watching. We march with you in spirit.

Mia O.
her family prepared her to Stand Up politically

Stand Up Minnesota Members Activism

How are you active politically, and what inspires you into action?
I grew up in a politically active family, where world affairs were discussed at family meals, and “Political Activism” was considered a moral obligation. It was only a matter of time before I became politically active myself. My dad was once quoted in a Star Tribune article in which he downplayed his status as a volunteer in the community by saying, “I do not consider myself a volunteer. I consider myself an active member of my community.”

This active involvement in my family goes back to when my grandparents passed out literature in support of the Social Security Act, so that the elderly would not have to retire into poverty. I have a newspaper photograph of my grandmother at a peace rally and one of my mother being arrested at Honeywell, protesting the making of parts for cluster bombs during the Nuclear Arms Race. I grew up understanding that war was not as simple as “good guys vs bad guys.” I grew up in a family who cared to know and understand what was going on in the world outside of our own neighborhood and in a family who always lived by Paul Wellstone’s well-summarized motto: “We all do better when we all do better.” My parents helped with the election campaign of Paul Wellstone, including having a fundraising event at their home. I believe that this was when I became politically active myself, at age 27, likely due to becoming a mother who wanted the best future possible for my newborn daughter. I am proud to say that my now 27-year-old daughter has followed three generations of footsteps and has recently become actively involved in our modern-day Civil Right’s Movement.

The causes in which I have become politically involved are varied. When the hash tag #WhyDoIMarch was going around, I had so many reasons that I simply stated “#WhyWouldntIMarch?” If pressed, my longest running involvement has been for environmental causes. My grandmother (1919-2009) often said that someday wars would be fought over water rather than oil, and raised me to care about protecting, conserving, and appreciating water for what it is — life giving and irreplaceable. She also cared about the use of pesticides long before anyone gave them any thought. I have spent decades trying to encourage others to care about the environment as much as I do, and more recently to believe in and understand the effects of Global Warming. I am proud to have raised my kids to spend a lot of time in the outdoors, enjoying and appreciating nature. This appreciation has led to a desire to protect their natural world.

My most tangible “action” concerning the environment occurred over Thanksgiving weekend when my husband, my 81-year-old mom and I all spent the weekend at Standing Rock to Stand Up for the Water Protectors and deliver much needed supplies. I felt that Thanksgiving weekend was a good time to show our support for the Native Americans and #NoDAPL, and to thank them for their protection of not only their water, but our water. Earth’s water.  Mni Waconi = Water is Life. This is an environmental cause as well as a Civil Right’s cause as well as a cause to finally stand up for the Native Americans whom we have taken from for far too long.

In addition to the environment, I Stand Up for the ACA. I care about the many stories out there, but the story I know best concerns my brother who has had diabetes since he was a teenager. As an adult, his insurance ended up costing him $1,500 per month before the ACA. When he wanted to switch to a less expensive plan, he was told that he would not be picked up by any other insurance company. If he missed so much as a payment, he would risk being dropped due to his expensive healthcare needs. Again, he would not be picked up by any other insurance company. His insulin alone — which he depends on to live — has cost him $600 per month and his testing strips cost $40 per week. The Affordable Care Act has literally saved him from severe financial ruin and resulting depression over the rising cost of medical care, and quite possibly his life.

I recently attended a #MNCare4All Rally at the Capitol in which we thanked Governor Dayton for working on behalf of MNCare, and I would like to quote a speaker from this event: “There is something wrong when our politicians care more about the profit of the health insurance companies than the health of the people.” Healthcare is a human right. People should not have to worry about being one injury, illness or accident away from poverty.

I Stand Up for the Disability Act. My dad (George Hanson) was instrumental in starting the DAPE program in the public schools, because he believed that no child should have to sit on the sidelines.

I am a teacher and I Stand Up for Public Education. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and support affordable/free preschool education so that all children may start off on the right foot for a successful future, which benefits society as a whole.

I Stand Up for protecting Social Security. After unselfishly working toward the Social Security Act, my grandmother ended up depending on SS when her husband died unexpectedly at age 37, leaving her as a single mother. She went back to work as a secretary, but women were not paid well enough to support a family — one of many reasons why I also support equal pay for women.

I Stand Up for gun safety-awareness events and I am a member of Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety. I am tired of politicians being beholden to the NRA, and the fact that we have done absolutely nothing different concerning our gun death epidemic. The answer to gun deaths is not more guns, and I would quit teaching the day that guns were ever allowed in schools.

Do you belong to any other political groups besides Stand Up Minnesota?

I belong to many other groups such as SD 50 and CD 3 plus some other private fb groups such as  Indivisible and Progressive Harbor.  I also marched in the Saint Paul Women’s March – which was the most uplifting group of all!

My list does not end here, which is why I belong to Stand-Up MN-Bloomington as well as various other political “Action” groups, where we are able to come together to support each other in our various progressive causes, to share our various expertise and/or passions, to tell each other about various “action” events, and to feel as though together we can make a difference. While it is true that “one person can make a difference”, we are being bombarded with so many serious issues on a daily basis that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. By joining a group of Stand Up people we come to feel that we are not in this alone. We inspire each other, we support each other, and we even have fun doing so.

Do you have any unique experiences or stories regarding your political activities?
Recently I had a “Wine and Sign” event at my house to fill out postcards to mail to our Senators and Congress members, as well as to the White House — and there are others who are starting book clubs! A friend and I also had fun going on various adventure walks while leaving sidewalk messages in chalk around town for #NeighborhoodLoveNotes.) There are many different kinds of “action” events — from postcard writing to phone calling, from marching to protesting, and from requesting a Town Hall event to questioning politicians at Town Hall events. We may not be comfortable with every “action” event, but we can each find a way to contribute. Even my self-professed “introvert” friend does so by helping to make posters as well as knitting me a pink “Pussy” hat!

With so many political groups that each have their own list of “action” events to choose from, we are not able to each attend every event that is important to us… but due to belonging to these groups we can often find someone who will. My family may have inspired me to begin my political activism, but during these times of defeat, it is the people in these political groups that are inspiring me to never give up.  It is a privilege to be a part of this active community.


Michelle L. 
award-winning newslady, now activist

Stand Up Minnesota Michelle Lee

 

Do you have any unique experiences or stories regarding your political activities?
I spent more than half my life amplifying the voices of others on a variety of issues, careful to provide equal time and consideration to both sides. The rules of a good journalist are simple: ask questions, find the truth and tell the truth.

I dedicated my life to being a good journalist as Michelle L. the news lady. That meant I could vote but not participate.

What inspires you into action?
I’d followed the president’s campaign closely– cringing inside while reporting on proposals I believed would tear at the fabric of our basic civil rights. I believed saner heads would prevail. I will never forget the dread I felt anchoring the news on election night 2016 when it became apparent that Donald Drumpf would become our president.

As the year came to a close I stepped away from the anchor desk and jumped feet first into participation by attending the Women’s March in Washington DC, determined to use my new found voice to prevent the unraveling of our human rights, health care and the care and education of our children.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands of my sister and brother marchers gave me a perspective that would never have come had I  covered the march as a journalist.

My moment came standing near the steps of the Humphrey Building (named after a Minnesota Patriot)  in the middle of a group of young adults drumming out a beat on overturned five-gallon pails and chanting for clean air and water. Nearby native brothers and sisters marched against a pipeline destined to cut across their sacred lands.

A trio of elderly women sat on the nearby steps wearing Pussy Hats and holding signs supporting Planned Parenthood.

Surrounded by strangers, taking in this powerful sights and sounds tears began rolling down my face. I was overwhelmed by the feelings of sadness and joy witnessing the rebirth of a movement.

From moment to movement: “You can’t sit on your couch,” said Sue from PA told me. “I’m a teacher, a mother, a woman and everything that [Donald Drumpf] has done has attacked everything I am. Our bus driver said it well [that the inauguration] was for politicians. Today is for patriots.”

“I’ve been drinking heavily ever since [the election],” laughed Diane as I walked beside her wheelchair. “I want the world to see for real that the U.S. is not like Drumpf.  The majority is us.” Her main concerns included the president’s stand on  Planned Parenthood, immigration, and the supreme court. A self-described child of the 70’s, Diane offered some advice to her granddaughters, “Fight hard, fight hard…it’s going to be a long hard fight.”

The movement continues: On the 28-hour bus ride back to Minnesota I made a personal commitment to speak out,  network and get involved in our political process.

How are you politically active? locally? nationally?
I blog, tweet, and share my thoughts on Facebook in an effort to open up a dialog with anyone willing to have a thoughtful discussion.  I’ve lost and gained friends, been the target of vicious comments and am learning to grow a thick skin.

Women’s rights are human rights.

In just a few short months the news lady has become the activist, willing to huddle, meet-up and lend my voice to the cause.