Edina, Minnesota Is Not . . . Well . . . Edina, Mississippi or Alabama

You have to move fast to keep up with some Minnesota cities, especially up-scale Edina.

In my recent blog on collaboration, I pointed out that competencies
are inevitably a response to culture, society and economics. Indeed, the
burgeoning emphasis on collaboration is uniquely tied to the evolution
of the economy and the knowledge worker.

Now comes the fruit of another cultural shift. Reported in the
Minneapolis Star Tribune, the gift was, amusingly, an Easter gift to
diversity.

First, the state’s Catholic hierarchy made an ass of itself in front of its own high school students at
Minneapolis’ DeLaSalle High School regarding gays, gay families and of
all things, adopted kids. The high schoolers raised an uproar with the
hierarchy reps, causing the church to back down fast. What the church
was trying to do—with only high school seniors present—was gain more
votes for anti-gay legislation. The hierarchy probably lost more than it
gained, showing the immense gap between the younger generation and old,
white men in black robes.

But the more intriguing Easter gift was from the city fathers of Edina,
who decided, unanimously, to add still more dates to their no-meetings
list. The change only affected 3 of 120 meetings this calendar year. Of
course, this will drive the Tea Party nuts, but I suspect there aren’t
many of that ilk in Edina. Now the no-meeting list includes the
following:

Christian holidays: Christmas, Christmas Eve, Good Friday

Jewish holidays: The evening before and the day of Yom Kippur, the evening before and two days of     both Rosh Hashanah and Passover

Islamic holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha

Hindu holidays: Diwali

A priest at the Hindu temple responded that the move is “really
awesome. That means American culture is really considerate of other
cultures, they try to understand and want them to celebrate. It really
helps us at the temple.”

“Edina” is Minnesota shorthand for lots of money, successful professionals and top public schools.
But it has also become, like many East coast and Midwestern suburbs, a
mecca (hmmmm–my Islamic reference.) for wealthy professionals, many of
whom are Islamic and Indian.

Tolerant Minneapolis and the western suburbs (including Edina) are a
case-study in how to change cultural attitudes. There was a time in the
first half of the twentieth century when Minneapolis was known as the
most anti-semitic city in the country. But the Star Tribune, under the
leadership of the Cowles family, changed all that. Not only did they
editorialize against anti-semitism, but the family strongly supported
Planned Parenthood, editorialized for birth control and public schools,
and led in the immense focus upon arts in the Twin Cities. We always
enjoyed the arts in New York and Chicago, but we also knew that we’d get
just as much exposure in the Twin Cities, especially in drama and
music.

A few years ago, I found myself seated on a flight to Chicago beside
Joe Dowling, the artistic director of the Guthrie. At the time the
Guthrie was raising funds for its new edifice on the Mississippi and I
chatted with Dowling about the status of the drive. “You have to
remember,” he explained, “that the Guthrie is the most heavily endowed
theater in the world.” As a New York theater-goer, that was more than a
little shock to my system. But as I thought about it, not much of a
surprise.

It continues to amaze me how much a few people can impact a culture for the good–and not reinforce its death-giving values.

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