When you’re Norwegian, Walter Mondale was saying, you just keep plugging along. And so rather than wallow in the disappointment over Norway’s decision to close its Minnesota consulate office in a few months, Mondale has accepted a new title.
The former senator, vice president, ambassador is about to become the honorary consul general of the soon-to-be “honorary” Norwegian consulate office in Minnesota.
“We tried very hard to keep it open,” Mondale said, “but it didn’t work out. There’s a committee of people trying to come up with a plan that we’ll think is very important for commerce and education between the countries. We’ll try to make this work.”
Norwegian consulate outlasts Swedish office
Mondale finds little satisfaction in the fact that Minnesota’s Norwegians kept their consulate office open longer than the Swedes did. The Swedish office became “honorary” several years ago.
“We all get along now,” said Mondale. “That was too bad when that closed. One of the arguments we had for keeping our consulate was that it hasn’t worked out so well for Sweden. We had some expert who said that the Swedish government’s decision to close has actually cost Sweden in a lot of commercial and cultural ways.”
Norway tried to close the Minnesota consulate six years ago. But passionate Norwegians from across the Upper Midwest persuaded the homeland to keep it open.
There was passion again in October when Norway’s minister of affairs again recommended Minnesota’s office be closed. A delegation of Minnesotans with Norwegian roots — there are 800,000 Minnesotans with at least a few drops of Norwegian heritage — headed to Norway to try talk some sense into the folks back home. Mondale himself made calls and wrote letters to keep the consulate open. Alas, this time the European Norwegians have proved more stubborn.
“Another great victory,” Mondale said, deadpan, of the failed effort.
Honorary consulate will keep one staffer
There was one concession. Norway, which has its embassy in Washington, D.C., and consulate offices that will remain in place in San Francisco, Houston and New York, has pledged it will keep one paid staffer at the downsized, downgraded Minnesota office.
And Mondale, despite the fact he’ll turn 80 next month, says he’ll do his best to make this “honorary consulate” more meaningful than the other 23 honorary consulates in Minnesota. (Did you know that Malta has an honorary consulate in the Twin Cities? As do Romania and Luxembourg and Korea. Only Canada and Mexico have the real deals.)
Mondale, reached at his Dorsey Whitney law office late Friday afternoon — he’d just returned from being a guest at a Japanese function in Washington, D.C. — said he’s never contemplated retirement.
“You don’t bother about age,” he said. “You just keep going.”
This, he suspects, is an ethic that dates back to Great-great-grandpa Mundal, who arrived in Minnesota in 1857 and became the first white settler to start farming near Albert Lea.
Mundal became Mondale “when somebody misspelled his name when he got his property. He apparently decided it was easier to go with the flow.”
Great- great-grandpa was a hard-working man who apparently knew the value of a dollar. A military draft was installed when the Civil War began. The draft included a large loophole for the wealthy. A drafted man could avoid service if he could find a replacement to take his spot. Great-great-grandpa took $400 for replacing a drafted man, served in the Civil War and returned, unscathed, to Minnesota, where he just kept plugging along.
That’s what Mondale has in mind now. No use looking back. No use being angry. Just “go with the flow” and keep working.
“We’ve got some months to put this together,” said Mondale of the new office. “There’s a committee working on it to make it something positive.”