Rudy Boschwitz at 90

Former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber helped put together a 90th birthday tribute to former Minnesota Senator Rudy Boschwitz via Zoom yesterday afternoon. Rudy turned 90 on November 7. I was grateful to be on the invitation list for the Zoom celebration. Getting to know Rudy over the past 25 years has been a personal highlight. He is an extraordinary man and walking testimony to the power of the American dream. On hand to salute him were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Whip John Thune, and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

Before his election to the Senate, Rudy had made his name as the down to earth retail businessman who built Plywood Minnesota. Rudy represented Minnesota in the Senate for a little over 12 years, from late 1978 until January 1991. Mister, we could use a man like Rudy Boschwitz again. He was a model Senator and supporter of President Reagan during Reagan’s two terms.

Rudy was born in Berlin in 1930. When Hitler was made chancellor of Germany in January 1933, Boschwitz’s father immediately declared that the family would leave the country. They emigrated from Germany and made their way to the United States two-and-a-half years later. All but one of his relatives who stayed behind perished in the Holocaust.

Rudy graduated from college at age 19 (Johns Hopkins) and law school at 22 (NYU), but found the practice of law boring. He moved to the Midwest and went into business, ultimately founding his own retail company in Minnesota. After building the retail company into a successful business, Rudy was elected to the Senate from Minnesota in 1978 as part of “the Minnesota massacre” in which Republicans won the state’s two Senate seats as well as the governor’s office.

He served in the Senate for 12 years with verve and distinction, but was narrowly defeated for reelection in 1990. Unlike so many defeated congressional officeholders who never return to their putative homes after leaving office, Rudy came back to work in his business. (I served as the treasurer for Rudy’s losing 1996 senate campaign against Senator Paul Wellstone, who had narrowly defeated Rudy in 1990.)

Rudy has been an ardent advocate of Jewish causes and of America’s alliance with Israel before, during, and since his tenure in the Senate. In 1991 President George H.W. Bush sent Rudy as the American emissary to Ethiopia on a mission that resulted in Operation Solomon, the rescue and dramatic airlift of the small black Jewish community in Ethiopia to Israel. In June 1991, President Bush awarded Rudy the Citizen’s Medal for his achievements in the Horn of Africa. Rudy takes special pride in his involvement in the rescue of the Ethiopian Jews, referring to it as “a major league mitzvah” (colloquially, “good deed”).

The University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School has posted the film teaser for a 30-minute broadcast-ready program about Rudy’s life and accomplishments. It’s an inspirational story: fleeing Nazi Germany, building a business, raising a family, serving in the U.S. Senate. A video of Rudy’s lecture “Magnificent America” (on America’s global influence since World War II) is also posted on YouTube. We join the prominent guests at yesterday’s Zoom forum in saluting Rudy on the occasion of his 90th birthday.