by Jim Boyle
As a youngster Albert Harold Quie thought he lacked courage.
He didn’t as an adult.
And at 88 years of age, the former Minnesota governor and Congressman, who once ran with a street gang just to gain insight into the young men caught up in that life, continues to put up a fight for causes he’s passionate about.
He will address one of them Wednesday at an early childhood summit from 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m. at Rockwoods in Otsego. The public is invited, especially community leaders and members of the business community. Registration is available online at www.728communityed.com and at the door on the day of the event. Cost is $15.
Event organizers had 40 registrations by this past Wednesday but were hoping to top 100 by the time of the event. They also hoped the topic would draw out business owners, managers and heads of human resources departments.
Quie has been arguing for years that young children could benefit from more and greater intentional efforts to connect children with early education programming and their parents — all at the same time.
He has advocated for small schools serving children under the age of 5 through third grade at every retail center, industrial park and corporate headquarters in the past. This is, after all, where groups of adults regularly spend their daytime hours.
“Wherever there is a parent or parents and seven other children, you ought to have a pre-school program,” said Quie, whose ultimate goal is to make it possible for children and working parents to connect at lunch time. “The best conversations where the emotional, social and moral development occur happen over a meal.”
Quie admits his ideas are radical. “I see no other substitute for it,” he said of the approach.
He is convinced there would be an added benefit of such an approach, even if it was invisible. Even the child who is not visited sees the interaction between their peer and parent, and they are changed. There’s magic in that, Quie said.
He said he remembers talking to parents who have done this type of thing regularly in the public schools. One commented on how much of an impact he felt it had on his child and others.
“I realized how important it was when other children flocked to the table so they could be with this relationship of my son and myself,” the man said.
Quie asserts what those children saw in the father and son might not be able to be articulated, but it should not be discounted.
“We need to observe the invisible,” Quie said. “There’s more reality in the invisible than there is in the visible.”
Quie was moved by the invisible as a youngster. He can remember his father talking about his grandfather, while he played with his toys on the floor of their farm home in Rice County. He was listening as much or more than he was playing.
His grandfather “answered Lincoln’s call” to take up arms and join Union forces to bring an end to slavery.
His grandfather was a member of the First Minnesota sharpshooters when he was wounded and put out of service in the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with 23,000 casualties on both sides.
The young boy on the floor was awed as his father talked to his siblings. His mind raced.
“What causes a person to care for individuals he’s never seen, so much so he would endanger his life for them?” Quie wondered. “I was envisioning all those rifles pointing at me. I knew I wouldn’t have enough courage.”
But he developed courage over time, in part because of the support he had from his father. One time he vividly remembers is a hunting excursion where he heard his father say that he knew his son and he could count on him.
“That meant the world to me,” Quie said.
Wednesday’s featured speaker graduated from high school in Northfield, from college at St. Olaf in Northfield and went on to serve as a pilot in the U.S. Navy. He eventually owned and operated a dairy farm before getting involved in politics as a school board member.
He was later elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1955, and was elected as a Republican to the 85th Congress, by special election, to fill the vacancy caused by a death. He was re-elected to 10 succeeding Congresses between 1958 and 1979; He was not a candidate for re-election in 1978 but was a successful candidate for governor of Minnesota and served from Jan. 1, 1979, until Jan. 3, 1983.
After leaving office, he has not slowed down much. Along the way he has gotten involved in prison ministry and the early education movement.
The common denominator of all the inmates he has met has been rejection by a father. The rejection often happens in the first years of the person’s life.
Quie has come to believe the early years is when children need to be reached.
He served on the Ready 4 K governing board and has helped lead Prison Fellowship’s Christian ministry to bring convicted felons together with their families.
Quie will bring his courage along on Wednesday to address community and business leaders as he asks them to step up to the challenge of the day.
Early Education Summit and luncheon:
Presented by the Elk River Area Childhood Coalition, the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce, the I-94 West Chamber and the Zimmerman Chamber of Commerce
Highlights: Economic benefits, workforce needs and local data/efforts
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday April 25
Where: Rockwoods Banquet Center, 9100 Quaday Ave. N.E.
Registration: Available online at www.728communityed.com and at at 763-241-3524 or at the door on the day of the event. Cost: $15
Featured speaker: Former Minnesota Governor Al Quie