Letter from Minneapolis, where ‘we are the change that we seek’

President Barack Obama
REUTERS/Jason Reed

Dear Mr. President,

Happy Independence Day.

In honor of your second 4th of July in the White House, I want to let you know that, despite your plummeting approval ratings, we here in Minneapolis got the message of your campaign, which was, to quote you and to remind our short attention-span nation, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
In other words, Do It Yourself. Times are surely tough and personal and professional lives are unraveling, but at the same time, in these days when so many look to one superman-slash-savior to clean up everything from oil spills to social ills, I look around every day and see people reinventing themselves as thinkers, artists, workers, people.

Prime example being Kings, the wine bar/restaurant I work at. It was opened in August at the height of the worst recession in 50 years by two sisters, Samantha Loesch and Molly Barnes Hanson, and it quickly has become a hub of conversation, bonding, family, drinking, dining. The best part is that we’re not alone. A new bakery, Patisserie 46, opens up across the street Tuesday, and kitty-corner from them is Café Ena, a staple of fine Latin cuisine for several years now.

It feels like the start of something on a formerly somnambulant corner; a collective with real roots and a bright future based partially on friendly competition and looking out for the other guy.

Too much can be made out of all this, of course — or can it? After all, it’s just a little intersection of locally owned businesses, not a government program that feeds the poor or helps the sick. But to me what’s happening there gets to the heart of what it means to be alive and working in the new America.

I don’t make much money working at Kings, but its riches are born of something you articulated before you were sworn in as president: “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”

We heard you, and it’s on in Minneapolis. We’re working on it. This is a very civilized part of the world that can feel like an oasis from all the rest of the madness — especially at this time of year, when the placid lakes team with kayaks and canoes that serve as ghostly reminders of why the water people of the Ojibwe first settled in this area: peace.

Which brings me to the book that’s enclosed with this letter. It’s Thomas Moore’s “Care of the Soul,” a highly meditative work that more people should know about. Originally published in 1992, it’s an important read right now, about cultivating inner peace without religion or societal mores, at a time when so much of America suffers from an over-mediafied, over-connected, over-opinionated hole its soul. I hope you dig it as much as I do.

Anyway, happy Independence Day from a fellow independent. We’re having a block party to celebrate Kings’ first birthday in August and you and the first family are invited. Until then, stay free and fight the power, like the Clash and Public Enemy said.

Much respect,

P.S. My 11-year-old daughter Helen is looking over my shoulder saying, “Hi, Mr. President. You are awesome, you’re doing great with the United States, and you are representing.”

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Carol Daly on 07/04/2010 - 12:03 pm.

    Thank you, Jim Walsh! It’s refreshing to see a confirmation of my thinking about Obama’s presidency, online. Obama-bashing is driving me crazy! The man THINKS! He has an enormous full plate in front of him. I’m so grateful he sits in the President’s seat. Carol Daly

  2. Submitted by Mike Nagell on 07/04/2010 - 12:48 pm.

    From one nation, one state , one city, one neighborhood, one family, one voice speaks for many. Our problems didn’t happen overnight. We must all stay determined. Catch our breath on this day and stand firm for a better neighborhood and nation. Change is many small victories that each of can create. Thanks Jim. Thanks Mr. President.

  3. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/04/2010 - 11:06 pm.

    Folks seem to have forgotten what a close run thing it was from September of 2008 to March of 2009. Between the Germans and the Republicans, they seem unwilling to do what needs to be done. Perhaps deep suffering will make them see sense, or make the voters angry enough to demand change.

  4. Submitted by Carol Koepp on 07/05/2010 - 10:19 am.

    Thank you Mr. Walsh, for helping us refocus on personal responsibility for making the change we are looking for. Luckily we have President Obama as a leader and model, but we have a lot of personal power as well.

  5. Submitted by david granneman on 07/05/2010 - 12:13 pm.

    thank you mr presidnet
    for a real unemployment of 18%
    for no public jobs being created
    a poorer quality health care at higher cost
    for rising taxes
    a punishing debt on our children

  6. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/05/2010 - 03:43 pm.

    Let me think for a second (something that is increasingly becoming rare in this country)…
    Obama inherited 2 wars (both financed by the Chinese)…he is in the process of closing one out and General Petraeus has both created and endorsed a plan to close out the other.

    Obama inherited a mini-depression..the country and the rest of the world is back on the growth track.

    Obama inherited a government where most all regulations were ‘optional’ as they pertained to enforcement. Lax regulation, little oversight and cronies from industry appointed to positions of authority made life a disaster waiting to happen. And of course it is happening. Obama has beefed up the SEC, EPA and other agencies.

    Obama delivered healthcare reform (when all) said it was dead — reform that will undoubtedly help many of those folks that wanted the “government to keep it’s hands off of their medicare”. HCR will undoubtedly be tweaked and improved by congress as needed.

    Obama has restored the face of America in the world

    Obama has taken America from the dark dungeons of a torturing country to a respectable position

    Obama is doing what the previous administration had destroyed. When Clinton left office, Israel and Palestine were a stone throw away from peace. Eight years of Bush put them 50 years backward. Obama is trying to restore that. For one thing, the man actually stood up to the Israelis.

    Hence, I am confused….given the above, President Obama has accomplished more in his 2 years than most presidents have in eight years..yet he has low approval ratings?

    Add this to chronic mis-information and a population who “believes” rather arrives a conclusion through intelligent thought, and what do you expect?

    And what can one do? Especially when you try to argue intelligently with apoplectic individuals who are incapable of listening?

    The only explanation is that Americans are have a short attention span. We need folks whose heads are not stuck in the sand. We need folks who are able to critically assess arguments.

    However, the right has adopted a strategy to deal with this seemingly hopeless situation in the short term. Move the arguments away from economics and living standards and onto something that can rally up the “non-logical” parts of peoples brains: focus on people’s innate xenophobia, on people’s innate faith on religion, on people’s illogical pledges to nationalism. Using this strategy, the right can push a blatantly pro-wealthy economic/practical agenda while not losing in an election from the back-lash of the mass of relatively poorer citizens. Build a smokescreen, if you will.

    That is what the right is really about, that is why eventually they will get stuck in a position where we see Republicans are at today. They are playing a con game – if you really believed in free markets, you would openly accept immigration or any sort of activity that will allow for freely moving labor wouldn’t you? The right is all about playing the religion/race/nationalism game on the mass to run an economic agenda that actually hurts that very same mass in order to benefit the wealthy, simple as that.

  7. Submitted by david granneman on 07/05/2010 - 09:01 pm.

    i may be an American with a “short attention span” who’s “non logical” brain is “stuck in the sand” while expiriencing “innate xenophobia ”

    could you explain the follow in headline:

    A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending — one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health-care system — would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation.

  8. Submitted by david granneman on 07/05/2010 - 09:23 pm.

    hello richard
    do you realy think America is a torturing country
    where thinking – something that is increasingly becoming rare
    Americans are chronicly mis-informationed and a population who “believes” rather arrives a conclusion through intelligent thought
    do you think we are apoplectic individuals who are incapable of listening?
    are we a people with a short attention spans whose heads are stuck in the sand.
    i believe you have very little faith in your fellow Americans
    no wonder you believe a big powerfull federal governement should run every asspect of our lives.

  9. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 07/05/2010 - 11:19 pm.

    What a crock, Mr. Walsh. Speak for yourself but don’t pretend that you speak for all Minnesotans.

  10. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 07/06/2010 - 05:17 am.

    Mark McKinnon writes an article in the Daily Beast, under the headline “Is Bill Stealing Obama’s Mojo?” which reports:

    “Bill Clinton, the ‘Comeback Kid,’ is back again—and stirring things up as only he can. Straying from the playbook is bad enough, but it has to be a source of some frustration and teeth-gnashing for Obama’s inner circle that Bill Clinton has become a more popular campaign surrogate and endorser than their boss.

    “The former president’s favorables are now at 51 percent, higher than Obama’s. And it was Clinton, with his strong appeal among working-class voters, who helped both Rep. Mark Critz (Pennsylvania) and the embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas) slug it out in their races.

    “…Love him or loathe him, Bubba inspires The Real Thing—brand loyalty.

    “Ironically, in a poll recently released by Public Policy Polling, 48 percent of likely voters say support from President Barack Obama would make them less likely to vote for a candidate. A sea change, indeed.”

    The American people are so disgusted with Nero Bama that he is relegated to tirades in the bunker while the Democratic Party self destructs this November.

  11. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/06/2010 - 07:27 am.

    It is critical to recognize that over 70% of the current US deficit is due to the economic downturn and Bush’s tax cuts, in roughly equal shares. To suggest that Americans were overtaxed in 2000 is preposterous, given the economic growth of the ’90s.

    The funniest thing about the Tea Party movement is their complete aversion to not only tax increases, but any reduction to Social Security, Medicare, or defense spending. It is like trying to tell someone who has fallen on hard times how to right their ship; but they don’t want to work anymore, they can’t downsize the house, they have to keep the Escalade…

    It’s not small government when morality is legislated; local schools are forced to teach right wing philosophy; churches and oil companies get government checks; and the biggest spender in government, the military, is given more money. That’s not small government; it’s just a different big government. There is no party of small government.

  12. Submitted by Deborah Irestone on 07/06/2010 - 02:19 pm.

    Thank you, Mr. Walsh for saying what a good number of us in our state are thinking. President Obama is doing a great job on a large number of problems afflicting our country. And although I am not a Minneapolitan (I’m a St. Paulite) I totally agree with what Jim had to say.
    Keep up the good work Mr President. Those of us who support you just don’t spew out words as loudly as the naysayers.

  13. Submitted by dan buechler on 07/06/2010 - 02:50 pm.

    Presidential polling amonst presidential scolars #39 Cheney/Bush, #15 Obama. David G., I hope you liked the Brock Lesnar fight Saturday.

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