U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., visited Pequot Lakes, where his mother grew up, on Monday, April 29, to share lessons with Pequot Lakes High School students on the importance of respect, honesty and integrity.
Nolan noted the Pequot Lakes motto, “Respect, Responsibility and Integrity,” and related to students how important those three qualities are to growing up and to leadership.
“The key, in my judgment, to leadership in every level — in your family, in your community, in your school, not to mention your state and your nation — is just fundamental integrity, respect and responsibility. So I applaud Pequot Lakes for having that as their fundamental motto because it is essential for success in life and for each and every one of you to be a leader in your family,” Nolan said.
He also told students that these are qualities they should practice now, rather than later.
“You need to be mindful of that. The kind of respect that you show for one another in your everyday life, people are observing you. They’re making a note of it. The hard work and the determination you bring to any task that you do, people are watching,” Nolan said. “People are observing, it might not impact you for another day or two, it might not impact you for another year or two ... in 30 years it might impact you and your life, because somebody reappears in your life in an important and a significant way.”
Nolan suggested that enacting these qualities in your daily life has many advantages.
“Here’s another reason to be honest and do the right thing, because it’s stupid, it’s really stupid not to, and people get caught doing things that that little inner voice tells them is not the right thing to do,” he said.
One way that Nolan suggested to practice these qualities is just to show kindness and respect to people for no reason.
“It’s so simple. There are people that nobody ever bothers to say hello to. Can you imagine what it would be like to live that life? Then some popular kid in school walks by and says, ‘Hi’. It might be the nicest thing to happen to them all day, that somebody took the time to say, ‘Hi, how are you?’" Nolan said.
"Every chance you get, try as best you can to always be honest, and sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s real difficult, and try to be kind. Be an instrument of bringing people together. Be an instrument of peace, of collaboration, of cooperation in your daily life,” he said.
Nolan suggested these qualities are lacking in current politics, and suggested that this deficit is responsible for problems in the current political system.
“There’s a great deal of discontent right now among the American people, about the politics in America. And many would argue, myself included, that it’s for good reason. We’re faced with a situation where the rich are getting dramatically richer. The poor are getting dramatically poorer and the middle class is getting crushed in the process,” Nolan said.
Nolan explained that he believes these qualities could increase “collaboration, cooperation, civility and compromise” between lawmakers.
“I submit that we need to change the way we do politics,” he said.
Changes proposed by Nolan included elimination of “corporate personhood,” decreasing the amount of time lawmakers spend running for office and increasing the amount of time they spend working, and increasing the ability to submit amendments. Nolan also stressed the importance of political engagement.
“Be mindful of how incredibly vast the impact of politics is on your life. If you want to have something to say in your life, you better be involved in the politics of your community,” he said.
Nolan also allowed a period of time for students to ask questions. Among the subjects covered were campaign contributions, gun control, gay marriage and recreational drug legalization. For some of these questions, the crowd of students was quiet; however, when Nolan expressed that he would vote in support of certain gun control laws, talk could be heard throughout the room.
He also said he would vote in support of gay marriage, and legalization (and management) of marijuana. He said that legalization of gay marriage was necessary in a country that considers all people equal, and current drug laws are ineffective and expensive, though he said he does not support drug use itself.
Nolan’s mother grew up in Pequot Lakes, and he has six grandchildren who are attending or have attended school in Pequot Lakes. Nolan is scheduled to speak at the May 24 graduation ceremony at Pequot Lakes High School where his granddaughter, Eleanor Heggerston, is graduating.