To: The Grinch
c/o Dr. Seuss
It is the Christmas season and you have stolen the U.S. Ambassador to Norway. Bring him back! It is a sorry state of affairs that has led to this larceny. Let us review.
Norway may not be very important to Grinchland, but it is vitally important to the State of Minnesota. The Minnesota State Office of Demography reports that there are over 860,000 people living in Minnesota who claim Norwegian ancestry. This represents the second-largest ethnic group in our state (approximately 17 percent). In fact, there are more people of Norwegian descent in Minnesota than any other place on earth, with the exception of Norway itself. And it’s more than people, it’s culture.
One of the greatest writers of literature in the Norwegian language was Ole Rolvaag. Ole became a professor at St. Olaf and was a U.S. citizen at the time of his death in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1931. It is from Ole Rolvaag that we get the Norwegian immigrant experience famously fictionalized in Giants in the Earth. Ole also gave us Karl Rolvaag, the 31st governor of the State of Minnesota, the first to serve a four-year term and the last to veto a sales tax in our fair state.
Our state (and Lake Wobegon) feature Norwegian bachelor farmers, of which there are still a plenitude outside the seven-county metropolitan area. One of the best restaurants in Minneapolis is called the Bachelor Farmer. The Lutheran church, a mainstay of religious life in Minnesota, is heavily influenced by Norwegian Lutherans. But we get more from Norway than just religious culture.
We get a strong NATO ally who has always stood firm with the United States. The former Prime Minister of Norway is the current head of NATO. Our most advanced fighter wings are located (in part) at airfields in Norway, completely welcomed by the government and population. And the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, at approximately $900 billion, is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. That fund buys a lot of stock and assets in United States companies. In fact, it bought most of North Dakota.
It is generally assumed that the largest single investor in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfields—and the surrounding areas—is the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. No Republican candidate running for president has ever suggested erecting a wall, deporting Norwegians or criticizing their currency practices.
If there was ever a country that deserved to have a full-time United States ambassador, it is Norway. In terms of business connections and cultural ties, an ambassador is a focal point of government and citizen interaction with the host country. In Minnesota’s case, we have an exceptionally qualified candidate to be ambassador to Norway, Sam Heins.
Potential ambassador Heins, besides being an extremely successful lawyer in Minnesota, educated in Minnesota and raised in Minnesota, has also given a great deal of his time and public service in international relations. He is a former member of the U.S. Delegation to the International Commission on Human Rights. He is a founder and longtime supporter of the Minnesota Council on Human Rights. And, several occupations ago, he was a partner of mine.
Mr. Heins’ appointment was supported by the White House, the State Department, both senators from Minnesota, and all senators (including all GOP senators) on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. But even though there may be giants in the earth in Norwegian literature, there are no giants in the Senate, at least on this issue.
In spite of the unanimity of support for ambassador-nominee Heins, Tom Cotton, freshman senator from Arkansas, has placed a “hold” on three Obama nominations to ambassadorships, including Norway. Senator Cotton has explained his hold to the D.C. media as attempting to force the White House to require the Justice Department to initiate criminal proceedings against the Secret Service for allegedly leaking a personnel file about a particular congressman. The Secretary of Homeland Security has already denied these allegations. The White House has indicated that it has no interest in seeking criminal prosecution for the very people who defend the president’s life.
And so, this Christmas season, when all good Norwegians are eating their lutefisk, there will once again be a loyal and trusted ally who this country will not honor with an ambassador.
Let me make two suggestions. First, I think all right-thinking Norwegian-Americans from Minnesota should start delivering to the office of Sen. Cotton (124 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510) a pound of lutefisk every day until he lifts his hold. And secondly, with the Senate calendar showing a few days in late December still available, we would hope that the Grinch could persuade Majority Leader McConnell to put the Norwegian ambassador confirmation to a vote of the U.S. Senate (where it will most certainly pass).
That would be a fitting gift for the Grinch, who has already stolen too many Christmases.
Vance K. Opperman
Will Trade Lutefisk for an Ambassadorship
Vance K. Opperman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.