Impromptus (Minnesota edition)

National Review senior editor Jay Nordlinger, you may recall, is the author of Peace, They Say, a history of the Nobel Peace Prize. He stayed with us last week when he was in town to make a couple of presentations to audiences assembled by the Center of the American Experiment. We greatly enjoyed our time with Jay.

Jay devotes the second half of his NRO Impromptus column today to his visit, mostly paying tribute to the Center, Power Line, and the people he met up with along the way: American Experiment president Mitch Pearlstein, my family and my friend Kathy Kersten, a senior fellow of the center.

Jay describes Kathy as “that brainy and brave writer” and observes: “Braininess is common; Kathy’s kind of bravery, not so much. Her pen is a threat to nostrums and cant. Naturally, some people don’t like it.” Bingo.

Kathy’s most recent study is “Our immense achievement gap.” It is an important contribution to the subject as well as a warning against another liberal fiasco in the making.

I took Jay over to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul after his lunch presentation on Friday. I wanted to show him the battle flags of the Minnesota regiments that fought for the Union in the Civil War. On permanent display in the capitol’s rotunda, the regimental flags are preserved as sacred relics. Among them are the flag of the First Minnesota Volunteers, the storied regiment that fought in the Army of the Potomac from Bull Run to Gettysburg. The capitol was built by the generation of men who fought in the Civil War; it is saturated in their sacrifice and patriotism.

Jay focused on a few items I hadn’t even noticed before. One was, as he writes, “a plaque to Mrs. Andreas Ueland, 1860-1927. Never heard of. Looked her up later: Clara Hampson Ueland, a suffrage leader.” Jay quotes the words of the plaque:

“May her memory save us from pettiness, all unworthy ambition, all narrowness of vision, all mean and sordid aims. As there was no weakness in her words, no weariness on her brow, no wavering in her loyalties, so may there be none in us. As she fought ever, without malice and without hatred, so may we fight.”

That is precisely the sentiment I get from spending time with those regimental flags. Jay comments: “May all of us receive a tribute like that one day, and be worthy of it!”


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