A lot to be proud of
There is still much to come -- a lot of snow left to melt, and in this winter of our discontent, maybe even more snow to fall. Roads will be underwater and rivers and streams will swell some more before it's over. But, so far, North Dakotans have done themselves proud.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker and those around him have raised the bar high for leadership and action under pressure. In a time in America when folks are yearning for hope, they found inspiration in the attitude and actions of people in the Fargo-Moorhead area who worked tirelessly to raise dikes in a race to save the city. Students and volunteers from miles away came to help. At least one unemployed worker drove hundreds of miles to pitch in.
Though the danger has not passed, we can acknowledge what they have done in Fargo has been nothing less than inspiring, a reminder to this nation that instead of wallowing in pity and doubt, waiting for the "gummint" to rush in and save them, American citizens are and always will be the best masters of their own fate.
That is not to discount the efforts of national, regional and local officials, including the National Guard and media. These institutions functioned very well, but strong local leadership was the key. By now, it's obvious a permanent dike is needed on both sides of the river.
Perhaps some of the stimulus money the state seems intent on putting in a savings account should go toward flood protection. There are projects all across North Dakota waiting for the dollars that have arrived. And the point of all of this spending is to get businesses moving again. I lean toward fiscal conservatism, but in this case, I'm 100 percent for spending the money and at least giving the president's plan a chance to work. What's the worst that can happen? We build up infrastructure in our state. Maybe it's flood control, another bridge over the Missouri, roads, electrical transmission lines, broadband expansion... bottom line, we need to spend that money and not feel bad about it. And let me say for the record, those governors who are rejecting this money while pretending to stand on principal are dumb as a box of rocks.
Fargo has set an example for how it should work. People locally took responsibility for their own survival. Now, they can turn to the federal and state government to help fund and construct a permanent solution. There's a place for government to do what the people cannot do for themselves. Things like levees, national defense, education, health care and justice. Government has its place.
Another big story coming out of Fargo is Ed Schultz's new program on MSNBC, "The Ed Show," (Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. Central) which debuted this week. I wonder how many people really understand the good Ed Schultz has done for North Dakota. Just recently, simply by talking about the parasitic increases in his Blue Cross/Blue Shield bill, he forced them to take a hard look at the bloat in the system and probably saved every policy owner some money. Who else could have done that?
Here's a guy who launched a national show from literally nothing at a time when all the experts said progressive radio wouldn't work. Well, five years after being pronounced DOA by all the experts, Ed Schultz is heard in almost every national market, and every day he sells them on North Dakota.
Every other one of these big name talkers is a big-city, Italian shoe wearing, private jet kind of guy -- completely out of touch with the rest of us. Maybe Ed will have a Gulfstream one day, but you can bet he won't forget how to bait a hook. You don't have to agree with Ed's politics to recognize he is an everyman with an extraordinary gift for communicating. While every other talker hides behind a screener from any formidable caller with opposing viewpoints, Ed takes them on. That makes for great radio.
At Barack Obama's first press conference, who was sitting up front with Helen Thomas? Big Ed. That should give you some idea of the respect he gets in Washington and should get in North Dakota.
Ed Schultz's accomplishments and the flood fighters of Fargo have enhanced North Dakota's image. Of course, to us, it's not image. It's who we know ourselves to be.