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When it comes up in conversation that I taught seventh grade for 17 years, I often get comments like, “That is a tough age.” People tell me stories about how disrespectful/rude/defiant/mean and self-absorbed they were then. Here’s how I explain why that is a tough age: When kids are small, they think everything adults say is true. Then they find out we (adults) lied to them; maybe it’s Santa Claus or the Easter bunny or the Tooth Fairy; it doesn’t matter. But once they find out we lied to them, they stop believing everything we say and start believing nothing we say. That’s seventh-graders. This quote (sometimes attributed to Mark Twain) says it better: “When I was 14, my father was the stupidest man in the world. By the time I was 21, I was amazed at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

I think empires are like people in that regard. When an empire is young it accepts its own origin story. Usually the story is of brilliant visionary founders of high moral character and noble ambitions.

But our American empire is apparently entering its adolescence.

In 1964, 77% of Americans believed that the government could be trusted to do the right thing all or most of the time; today it’s 19%, according to Pew Research Center.

We’ll probably never get back to 77% of Americans trusting the government, but just as adolescents come to understand that adults are just flawed, imperfect people doing the best they can, I look forward to the day when Americans collectively mature to the point that we again trust that the hardworking people in our government strive to achieve the ideals of America, even though America has not always lived up to them.

Rolf bolstad, Minneapolis

• • •

This past week Rep. John Lewis died. There have been many accolades and tributes to him. He is the last of the “Big Six” Black leaders who marched for civil rights for Black people. His life was dedicated to voting rights for all.

My husband and I recently watched a documentary on TPT about his life. He was focused, dedicated and passionate about voting. Lewis was a role model and servant for living a life of humble, nonviolent passion.

How can humble and passion be in the same sentence? He approached life from a place of love and grace-filled belief in everyone. But he also delivered fiery speeches exhorting everyone not to take voting for granted, to treasure, honor and realize what a gift and responsibility it was.

I came away angry and determined. Angry that we as a people take voting for granted. That only 58.1% of all eligible voters in America voted in 2016. What an insult to the men and women who literally gave their lives so that we have the privilege of voting.

I also came away determined to continue my work and participation with the League of Women Voters. This year is the 100th anniversary of women obtaining the right to vote. I am ready. Are you? There is no excuse.

Think of John Lewis, those who fought for freedom, the suffragettes. We can at least honor their work and dedication, if only to keep democracy alive. I read recently, “If you want a revolution, vote.”

Elizabeth Stites, Woodbury

TRUMP

Perfect but for the failures

In another forum, I read comments from a local supporter of President Donald Trump noting that the economy and employment were strong until COVID-19 hit, somehow endorsing Trump’s management. Yes, and the pilot of the Titanic was doing fine until that pesky iceberg started causing trouble.

James M. Dunn, Edina

MASK MESSAGING

Support is support, even if it’s copied

Regarding “Walz under fire for sample letters” (July 25) and those calling the incident “subterfuge,” “deception,” a “taxpayer funded PR campaign,” “quasi-lobbying,” please get a grip, folks. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has been opposed to mask mandates all along, so it’s no surprise that he equates the statewide mask mandate and sample letters of support with “abuse of power” by Gov. Tim Walz’s administration. I am reasonably certain that if the shoe were on the other foot, this would have been a non-story.

I received an e-mail from restaurant owners in St. Paul. It was a clear, concise and compelling message about the owners’ concern about the health of their guests and staff and why mask wearing was necessary to help reduce coronavirus transmission. As a restaurant patron, I couldn’t care less if the content originated with the restaurant owners or if it came from a template. If it did not reflect the owners’ values, they would not have sent it. I appreciated their outreach and sensible message.

Sandra Nelson, Minneapolis

• • •

I think that CEOs are savvy enough to know that the sample letters of support for masks were drafted by paid personnel, and most of them, if moved to write such a letter, would prefer to put it in their own words. I receive such “canned” letters frequently and know that recipients are savvy enough to recognize canned letters if sent many of them. What’s the big deal? The important element is the decision to write in the first place.

Gazelka was being more than a bit disingenuous. Please, don’t try to tell us that a “statement” issued by your office was drafted by you personally — that was done by your paid PR staff person. Did it contain a disclaimer? Of course not.

Mask-wearing benefits all of us, Democrats, independents and Republicans. Trump decided to make it a political statement. Otherwise, it would be sensible policy and probably adopted by everyone. Trump has since changed his mind, if you ask him on the right day. And Gazelka will not be seen to have been on the right side of science when the pandemic is over. Only prevention will keep us safe, and he must know that. How refreshing it would be if a leading Republican and Democrat from Minnesota or any state would join hands on this. It would probably boost their re-election chances, too, since mask-wearing is overwhelmingly popular.

Mary McLeod, St. Paul

• • •

The government’s COVID-19 response has been hampered from the beginning by mixed and ineffective messaging. July 30’s front page provides another excellent example of this ineffective messaging. In the article “Routine vaccines may cut virus risk,” a photo was included showing Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and at least six others getting a tour of Liberty Packaging’s Brooklyn Park warehouse. So while the rest of us are required to work from home when possible, wear a mask when indoors, and keep a minimum distance of 6 feet between us whenever possible, the governor and his entourage leave home to tour a warehouse for what compelling reason? To see a warehouse that is housing the state’s stockpile of masks? Is that really a necessary reason to be out and about town with a group of people? And while the governor and his entourage are wearing masks as is now required when inside, they are standing shoulder to shoulder and not properly distanced as is recommended whenever possible.

This mixed messaging is exactly why the entire country is struggling to gain control of the COVID pandemic. Leadership is about setting a good example. Do what you ask others to do!

Jerry Johnson, Eden Prairie

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