Two senators–one GOP, one Democrat—engaged in polite discourse at Minneapolis’ Augsburg College over pizza with a dozen or so politically diverse students recently.
The conference-room talk competed with events outside: a softball game and large courtyard gathering, music blaring at both. Though less boisterous, the bantering between Senators Steve Simon and Pat Garofalo ought to earn some points.
By coming out to speak (with scantily funded students, no less) in the middle of a harrowing legislative session the two demonstrated their mutual mission to disprove the perception that policymakers are just superficial get-the-vote performers.
And underscored a deeper point: When different people consciously acknowledge the importance others have to their own personal and professional success, all win.
But what became clear as they spoke of the expert-created avalanches of data they try to sort and filter to balance budgets and otherwise serve their constituents, was this: The very citizens policy-makers support are increasingly lost in the paper shuffle. A problem, both acknowledged, that isn’t likely to change soon.
I asked them about what seems to me to be a “solutions saturation.”
Why is it that increasingly fewer elite professional researchers and advisers are paid so much to produce endless spreadsheets while the “human capital” of ever more numbers of citizens represented in so many rows and columns is being increasingly underutilized? In other words, how do we balance our human assets and investments?
The senators seemed equally stumped by these, admittedly abstract, questions.
By constrast, concrete answers were provided at a public event Saturday night. Staged in this case by business leaders and performed by their creative counterpoints in suburban Burnsville to benefit southern Twin Cities- metro community causes.
Nearly 1000 tickets were sold. Music—by everyone from precocious prodigies to PhD’ed elites—blared. Inter-generational genres from classical to jazz to rock were covered. As were cross-partisan perspectives spanning conservative-style patriotic to liberal-style pathos. The performers’ costs, however, were little.
Most happily engaged their passions and shared public-good purpose. Some, including a group of men’s accapella crooners from a regional high school, are amateurs. Others like folk-fusion group Days of Rae are emerging stars. Still others, like, sculptor Gene Piersa are seasoned professionals.
Regardless experience, their combined efforts can’t be quantified by numbingly numerical spreadsheets—but were nonetheless powerfully proven in artistic languages all in the community could understand.
…and thus most entertainingly summed up what paid experts haven’t. Real people, investing their unique gifts can solve the problems overwhelming our culture.
That’s civic music all ought to hear.