Why caucus?

Caucuses are coming up.  I suspect a lot of us think that a caucus is just about a political party.  It’s when Democrats or Republicans get together to do Democraty and Republicany stuff.  I suppose that’s part of what happens at a caucus. But it isn’t the whole story. At least not to me.

I think the most significant aspect of a caucus is that it is organized by precinct, or neighborhood.  At a caucus, people who live in a certain area choose to be involved in public life and meet to talk about important issues and decide which politicians best represent their community’s values. They say all politics is local.  I think that’s only partially true.  I think all politics is about neighbors.

A neighborhood is more than a location. It’s a set of relationships and a kind of recognition.  You can live next to people for years but not consider them neighbors.  Or someone can move in down the block on a Tuesday and feel like a neighbor by Wednesday. I recognize my neighbors as neighbors when I drive by someone shoveling snow on my way home and I know I’m about to do the same thing.  Or when i go to the mailbox on the first day of spring, meet my neighbor, neither of us wearing a coat, and we smile and know why. Or when I’m helping someone chase their escaped dog through the neighborhood, knowing next week we’ll be chasing mine. In these moments, we share parts of our lives with each other, and more often than not we find that we have more in common than we knew.

The caucus can be just that kind of moment. It doesn’t have to be or feel partisan, but it can and will feel neighborly. Hope to see you there.

The DFL caucus will be held Tuesday, February 6th at 7PM.  Check out this link to find out where you should go: http://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/how-elections-work/precinct-caucuses/

Want to be a precinct captain for Aric? Shoot us a note.

The Value of Resolutions

For most of us, New Year’s Day is about starting over and improving ourselves. We make resolutions because we have thought critically about the past, imagined something better, and then decided to put in the work to create that future. We don’t and can’t know the result of our resolutions, but we are still better for making them, for not just accepting the way things have been.

So much that happened in 2017 could have been better. We have a responsibility to admit as much and to do the work to move on. This year deserves a heap of criticism, but it should also motivate great hope. I’m excited for the year ahead.

I’m knee deep in the work of campaigning, volunteering, and working, and I’m inspired to imagine what comes next, to think critically about what’s passed and do the work to make this next year better. What we face is too important, and what’s at stake is too profound not to do the work of imagining a better 2018 and a greater future for St. Cloud, Waite Park, and St. Augusta.

Let’s do this.

Happy New Year from Laurie, Eliza, Phin, and I. We wish you the best 2018.

Honoring the Legacy of My Family’s Military Service

This past Tuesday, I was asked to lecture a citizenship class. My friend and colleague Emily thought our students would appreciate hearing about what it’s like to run for office.  It was election day, after all, and that seemed like a good idea for a great conversation.

I talked about the practical, day-to-day business of running for office, and then a former student named Alec asked me a profound question. See, he’d read my blog and wanted to hear a bit more about why I felt compelled to run for office. He asked me how my family’s military background shaped my decision. It was complicated then and is now.

Were I to get as simple as can be, I would tell you my mother’s father was a chaplain at the Battle of the Bulge and that his commitment to the twin absolutes of God and Country left a permanent imprint on me. But there is more to it. My grandfather’s righteousness was deeply ecumenical. He was (and is — he’s 95) a dedicated patriot, but I think, first and last, he was most concerned with standing up for truth. Period. It was why he was a soldier, why he was a clergyman, why he did prison ministry. I’ve always admired his character.

My grandfather, serving at the Battle of the Bulge

My father’s father was a medic in the Pacific. He died when I was almost 1 year old, on the day before my birthday. I’ve no wonder I could have learned a great deal from him as well. Even though I never got to know him, I still learned from his example. After his 28 years of military service, he became a police officer and served his community for almost 20 more years. He started a program to help teach kids traffic safety. He was the police officer who helped out at crosswalks. I don’t have any memories of my father’s father, but I admire his dedication.

Grandpa Putnam in his police uniform

My father and three uncles fought in Vietnam.  My father’s service shaped him profoundly, and me too. He wasn’t drafted. He chose to stand up, to take a risk in the name of something greater than himself, something too few do often enough. In that way, he was a bit of a square peg in a world of round holes.

Today is Veterans Day.  We sometimes celebrate this day with platitudes, the easy things to say and do. But I think we honor veterans best when we don’t take the easy route. They didn’t, after all. Veterans Day deserves more than easy words; and our veterans deserve the deep gratitude that only comes after deep reflection.

We need to do more than celebrate a day. We need to respect those who have served and commit ourselves to the spirit that inspired their service.

Why I’m Running Again

Aric Putnam

In 2016, after years of serving our community as an educator and volunteer, I decided to run for the state legislature. I’d never run for office before. It was a risk and not an easy decision. But once I’d committed, I knew it was the right call. I’m from a military family, so service and duty are important parts of who I am, but it wasn’t until I’d run for office that I really saw all that can be good and all that isn’t, the way things are and the way they could be.

We all know and love Central Minnesota. It is our home and home to beautiful contradictions — a fierce independent spirit twinned with an uncommon commitment to be a good neighbor; profound pride and deeper humility; a solid work ethic and a real appreciation for life’s quiet pleasures.

We are special — not a small town, not a big city. But our current representatives seem not to understand this. They have failed to advocate for us. Putting ideology and dependence on party ahead of what is best for our community, they have not been forward thinking, and they have not used government to improve our everyday lives.

I’m excited to announce that I will again stand for election to the Minnesota legislature to represent district 14A, my friends in south and northwest St. Cloud, St. Augusta, and Waite Park.

For me, politics is new work, an opportunity to serve and to fix problems. I don’t live for politics, but I do politics to improve lives. And right now we need our politics to do that. Too many of us work hard and yet live in distress, too many of our young people and teachers struggle in schools that need support, too many of our friends and loved ones lack fair access to good healthcare.

We can’t neglect our responsibilities. We can’t miss our opportunity. We can’t waste our potential.

We can do better.  We will do better, and we will become greater.

And that’s why I’m running.

 


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