Prayer and Meditation for Walter Mondale by Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen

At the May 1, 2022 memorial service for Walter Mondale, Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, the Senior Pastor at Mondale’s Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian, delivered the following prayer and Meditation.

Prayer

“Let us pray:”

 “Gracious God, we gather in this Easter season to give you thanks and   praise for the life and witness of Walter F. Mondale. In remembering him and his legacy of public service, help us recall the source of the values that guided him. You summon us to seek justice, to uphold the full humanity of all, to ensure equal access – and to do so with kindness and humility. Your servant Fritz embraced those gospel ideals.”

“As we face the mystery of death help us, we pray, to see the light of eternity, the light that now shines on Fritz, Joan, and Eleanor. With the power of a love that knows no bounds, hold them close, and comfort and encourage all who continue to struggle for the world you desire for the human community.”

 “ In your name we pray. Amen.”

 Meditation

“Fritz Mondale was born into a home steeped in biblical wisdom and solid, southern Minnesota common sense. Theodore, his Methodist-pastor father, would have trained for the ministry in the time when the social gospel was ascendant. The values of doing good and making the world a better place for all were taught in the Mondale household and in Sunday School by Fritz’s mother, Claribel, who also played the piano at church.”

“’I believe I attended more church services,’ Fritz once said, ‘Sang in more weddings and funerals, attended more Sunday Schools, than any public official in the history of southern Minnesota.’”

“His family drew from the well of Methodist teaching that linked passion, discipline, intellect, and concern for ‘the least of these.’ It was a potent combination of a heart aflame with rigorous commitment to serve the most vulnerable in society. That theological context formed young Fritz, and it would define his character all his life.”

“’My faith and my family have been my greatest blessings in my life,’ he said in a speech not long ago.  ‘I was taught that ours was a faith of decency and social justice, based on the great commandment to love your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Like many of us in the Protestant world, Fritz did not wear religion on his sleeve. In fact, he was suspicious of anyone who did. His was a Beatitudes-based faith, drawing on the simple teaching of Jesus: ‘Blessed are those who are meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who are poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called children of God.’”

“Fritz found the holy in what Wendell Berry calls ‘the peace of wild things,’ whether at their cabin in the St. Croix Valley or fishing up north. His work in protecting rivers was driven by home-grown Minnesota commitment to stewardship of the earth. ‘Wilderness is a spiritual necessity,’ Sigurd Olson said in words that Fritz lived, ‘A means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.’ An usher at church this morning told me how grateful he and his fishing buddies are for what Fritz did to protect the rivers of this land. He said he never got a chance to thank him in person. So, on his and his buddies’ behalf, Thank you, Fritz.”  (Olson, The Spiritual Aspects of Wilderness (1961))

“Every time Fritz referred to his upbringing – which he did regularly – it was his way of remembering what had shaped his life and formed the person he became.”

“The Mondales were faithful members of the church I serve, Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis. Joan’s father was a Presbyterian chaplain at Macalester College, which Fritz attended before the U of M. He met Joan on a blind date at Macalester. It was the start of their beautiful life together.”

“The nation saw and admired Fritz’ public service; I did, too, and as his pastor I also saw the husband and father who deeply loved his family. The loss of Eleanor tore open his heart, and Joan’s death took part of his life, as well. Millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of whom are women. As Joan declined, Fritz tenderly cared for her right to the end, rarely leaving her side.”

“Toward the end of his life, he said he looked forward to being with them both again. Fritz trusted in the power of God’s love in this life and the next. He was not concerned about the state of his soul.”

“Shortly after his 90th birthday party, held here at the University, I had lunch with him. As I sometimes do with older parishioners, I asked if he ever thought about the end of life. He glanced around the noisy place, leaned forward, and said quietly, ‘In the strict confidentiality of this room, I will tell you that I will be the first person to live forever. I’ve made the arrangements.’”

“I thanked him for letting me in on the secret.”

“’Actually,’ he said, ‘I understand it happens to everyone at some point. Do you think Carter will come?’”

“President Carter has sent words we will hear later, but he was able to be here for Joan’s memorial service in Westminster’s sanctuary and gave a moving tribute to her and to the life partnership she had with Fritz.”

“Walter Mondale may not have been concerned about the state of his soul, but he was concerned about the state of his nation, especially in recent years.”

“The rise of the religious Right as a powerful force in American politics was a source of considerable consternation to him. ‘Tell me what’s going on with these fundamentalist preachers,’ he would say to me – as if I knew.”

“Fritz understood neither the Christianity they espoused nor the politics they practiced. Both were utterly foreign to his way of living out a quiet faith through public policy aimed squarely at justice for those on the receiving end of the cruelties of history. His Christianity was kind and humble. It confounded him when fellow believers were neither.”

“Once when we were at a meal in a restaurant word got out in the kitchen that the vice-president was eating there.  The kitchen door opened and one-by-one the dishwashers and bussers, all of them immigrants, came out to shake his hand and thank him for his service to the nation. Fritz treated each one with respect and dignity.”

“On his office desk, Fritz had taped some lines from Psalm 15. The Hebrew poet provided the scriptural framing of the politics he practiced. As I read these words, contrast them with much of what passes for political leadership today (present company excepted):

Lord, who can be trusted with power, and who may act in your place? Those with a passion for justice, who speak the truth from their hearts; who have let go of selfish interests and grown beyond their own lives; who see the wretched as their family and the poor as their flesh and blood. They alone are impartial and worthy of the people’s trust. Their compassion lights up the whole earth, and their kindness endures forever.”

“Theodore and Claribel’s son, born 94 years ago, grew up and entered political life and served his beloved Minnesota and our nation for decades, never wandering far from his roots.”

Thanks be to God for the life of Fritz Mondale.

“Thanks be to God for love that cannot be taken from us.

 “Thanks be to God.

  “Amen.”

Background on Westminster Presbyterian Church[1]

Westminster was founded in Minneapolis in 1857 by eight people of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh heritage and moved to its current location at 12th Street and Nicollet Avenue in 1883 and its current Sanctuary at that location in 1897. Its latest expansion was in 2018, when a modern two-story  40,000 square-foot wing was added with church bells crafted in France. (Here are photographs of the church.)

With over 3,000 members today, Westminster is “an engaged, urban partner sharing good news with a world in need of God’s peace, love, and justice [as a] vibrant, open-minded congregation.” It “is a place where people of all ages and backgrounds deepen their faith and make a difference in the world.” It “offers ministries in adult, children, and youth education; music and the arts; and social justice, with a highly engaged congregation that welcomes and cares deeply for all people within and beyond its walls.”

Westminster is “an open and affirming congregation” that “because of our commitment to the love and justice of Jesus Christ, . . .fully welcomes persons of all sexual orientations and gender expressions and identities.” It “was involved in the movement to change the Presbyterian Church’s ordination standards to allow any church member to freely serve and be elected as a minster, elder, or deacon. Our church was a leader in the movement for marriage equality in the State of Minnesota and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Prior to the legalization of marriage equality, Westminster’s pastors celebrated the love and commitment of same-sex couples, and continue now to happily officiate at weddings recognized by the State of Minnesota.”

Westminster has “heightened awareness of the systemic and critical issues affecting our community, brought to greater attention in recent years, most especially in response to the murder of George Floyd. Through [adult education] we will learn about long-standing needs, and become more prepared to support all members of our community. In arriving at this theme, we are guided by the beliefs we share with congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA), “God sends the Church to work for justice in the world: exercising its power for the common good…seeking dignity and freedom for all people” (Book of Order, W-5.0304). And with this theme we are reconnecting with Westminster’s hope for a just (Micah 6:8), loving (I Corinthians 16:14), joyful (Galatians 5:22), sustainable (Psalm 8), and peaceful (John 14:27) community.”

Since 1980 the church has sponsored the Westminster Town Hall Forum, which is broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio, to discuss “key issues of our day in an ethical perspective.” Speakers have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Thomas Friedman, Cornel West, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, David McCullough, Marcus Borg, Marian Wright Edelman, Barbara Brown Taylor, David Brooks, Salman Rushdie, Gwen Ifill, and Bryan Stevenson.

Westminster’s Global Partners Ministry Team nurtures the church’s long-standing relationships with faith communities in Cameroon, Cuba, and Palestine (West Bank). The team plans opportunities for Westminster members to visit sister congregations and related Christian organizations in these communities to share friendship, prayer, worship, and community service. These global partnerships have resulted not only in treasured congregational relationships, but also in deepening of our shared faith.

Most recently Westminster with the assistance of the Minnesota Council of Churches has become a co-sponsor of an Afghan family.

Rev. Hart-Andersen is a member of the Downtown Interfaith Senior Clergy of Minneapolis along with religious leaders of faith traditions that include Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Humanism. One example of their work was the prompt condemnation of the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd.

Rev. Hart-Andersen has been Westminster’s Senior Pastor since 1999 and “is passionate about Westminster’s mission to be fully engaged in the life of the city and in transforming lives and systems in pursuit of the love and justice of Jesus Christ. ‘Westminster is a community thoroughly engaged in living faithfully in complex times. I am grateful that the church is willing to learn and change, to grow and take risks, all in an effort to fulfill the gospel mandate to ‘love God and neighbor.’”

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[1] Westminster Presbyterian Church, History; Westminster, What we believe; Westminster. Social Justice Forum; Westminster Town Hall Forum; Westminster Global Partners Ministry TeamMinneapolis Religious Leaders Condemn Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 8, 2020); Westminster, Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen. This blogger is a Westminster member and non-ruling elder who has been involved in leading our Global Partners Ministry Team and has been on  mission trips to Cuba and Cameroon and is now involved in our co-sponsorship of an Afghan family. (See these posts about religion, Cuba and Cameroon.)

 

 

 

Presidential Historian Jon Meacham’s Remarks About Walter Mondale at His Memorial Service

At the May 1st Memorial Service for former Vice President Walter Mondale, Presidential Historian Jon Meacham delivered the following remarks.[1]

“The story begins the year before he was even old enough to vote. It was a late July afternoon in 1948, and Fritz Mondale, then all of 20, had been put in charge of the Second Congressional District for Hubert Humphrey’s U.S. Senate campaign. No one knew what second prize was. The annual Martin County Farm Bureau Federation picnic at Fox Lake Park needed a speaker, and Mr. Mondale arranged for Humphrey to headline the event.”

“The political climate was charged and complicated in that American summer. There was anxiety at home, communist aggression abroad, as a Democratic president sought to govern a fractious party and a divided country. As Mark Twain once said, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Seen as too liberal by the right and too conservative by the left, Harry Truman would say he didn’t give Republicans hell; he just told them the truth and they thought it was hell.”

“In his own party President Truman faced opposition over his desegregation of the military and his push for civil rights. Only weeks before the Martin County picnic, Mayor Humphrey’s civil rights speech at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia had helped send Dixiecrats, segregationist Dixiecrats, out of the hall and back into the Old Confederacy.”

“But far from the Olympian drama of Philadelphia, in Martin County, after the 4-H club band had played, Humphrey took the stage. He was passionate and funny. He said, ‘Kick the rascals out, and vote the new rascals in.’ Afterward Humphrey thanked his young ally, telling Mr. Mondale: ‘Your work is needed. We have so much to do.’”

“Mr. Mondale was over the moon. ‘After that day,’ he recalled, ‘I think I never stopped.’”

“’I think I never stopped.’ And we live in a better, nobler, more perfect Union because Walter Frederick Mondale never stopped.”

“Now, for the politicians in the room — and there might be one or two of you who snuck through customs — an election result: In 1948, Humphrey carried Mondale’s territory, the very Republican Second District, by 8,500 votes. It was Mr. Mondale’s first victory, and it was a sweet one, second only perhaps to his seven dates-in-six-months courtship of Joan Adams.”

“The son of a Methodist minister and farmer, as a child Walter Mondale absorbed a gospel that he never stopped seeking to put into practice: That we are summoned to love our neighbors as ourselves, to lift up the most vulnerable among us — to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to strengthen the weak.”

“There’s nothing more important — nothing more American — than that: To enlist in the perennial battle to make real the founding ideal of this nation, that we are in fact created equal.”

“Now, we can, and we will, and we do disagree about the means of governance. But at our best, Americans have agreed on the end of our common project: To give everyone, in Lincoln’s phrase, ‘an open field and a fair chance.’”

“Walter Mondale devoted his life to that cause. He never stopped seeking a fuller, freer, fairer America. And his years in the arena are testament to a truth of human experience: That the polls and the passions of the moment are just that — of the moment. Headlines come and go; history endures. The tumult of politics rage; true service stands long after the furies of the moment have passed.”

“Walter Mondale understood something fundamental: That we are at our best not when we build walls, but when we build bridges; not when we point fingers, but when we lend a hand; not when we fear, but when we hope. And from age to age, history honors those who put ‘We the People’ above the will to power; the rule of law above the reign of party; and difficult truths above self-serving fictions.”

“Now, the Mondales were a stoic people. His father, Theodore, fought a stutter, struggled to farm, went to seminary, and raised a son, Fritz, who knew hardship but lived in hope.”

“It was a hope that drove him all his life. He was born a year before the stock market crash. His childhood was shaped by the Great Depression. He believed in hard work — he liked to say that he was the only pea-lice inspector to ever become Vice President of the United States. I didn’t check it, but I think he’s on safe ground. Some might have preferred it. He served in the U.S. Army, went to law school on the GI Bill, and always gave back to the country that had made his life possible.”

“Now, he was often caricatured, as you all know, as a big-government liberal. But he’s better understood as a Cold War liberal — a man devoted, at home and abroad, to freedom and to fairness.”

“Freedom and fairness: Bear those words in mind. For they are the words that shaped Walter Mondale’s consequential life — and Lord knows they are the words that must guide us still.”

“In the struggle between democracy and dictatorship in the 20th century, Fritz Mondale cast his lot with neither the utopians of the left nor the reactionaries of the right. He stood, instead, for the centrality of the individual, for the sanctity of liberty, and for the pursuit of possibility against the totalitarian impulse.”

“As attorney general of Minnesota he was instrumental in the Gideon case that gave indigent defendants the right to counsel. He brokered the deal that would end segregation forever in the Democratic Party, long the bastion of Jim Crow.”

“And then, he came to the Senate. In the mid-1960s, in the seat that Hubert Humphrey had won the year of that Farm Bureau picnic, Sen. Mondale sensed a vital intersection of forces. To him, as he put it, it was ‘as if we took the intellectual heritage of Franklin Roosevelt, the moral inspiration of John Kennedy, and a decade of pent-up demand for social change and converted them into social reality.’ As a senator he was a crucial voice for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He led the battle for fair housing in 1968, mastering the Senate in that essential hour.”

“And he never stopped. His causes included Title IX to open opportunities for women. Head Start and elementary and secondary education. Filibuster reform. Nutrition and antipoverty programs. Workers’ rights. Environmental protections. Consumer protections. Early attention to the crisis of climate change. The domestic side of the Church Committee, which revealed the FBI’s wiretapping and harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. The transformation of the vice-presidency in the Carter years. A challenge to apartheid that ignited the chain of events that led to the release of Nelson Mandela. And the nomination of a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, to run with him on a national ticket.”

“Walter Mondale was a giant of the Senate, a formidable vice president, and a truth-telling presidential nominee of his party who never stopped standing by principle.”

“To be sure, it was not always the smoothest of rides. Fritz Mondale knew the vicissitudes of politics as well as any American ever has. When he explored a run for president in 1976, he recalled that ‘after a year I was running six points behind ‘I Don’t Know’ … and I wanted to challenge him to a debate.’ Mr. Mondale would tell the story of Sam Donaldson’s asking Ronald Reagan in 1984, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ And Reagan: ‘Minnesota.’ When Mondale went to ask George McGovern when did it stop hurting to lose the presidency, Sen. McGovern said, ‘I don’t know. I’ll tell you when it happens.’”

“Walter Mondale loved his family. He loved fishing, Shakespeare, Dairy Queen, the United States Senate, Hubert Humphrey, cigars and the state of Minnesota.”

“And most of all he loved America — its complexities and its hopes, its promise and its possibilities. He thought of himself as a public servant, as a citizen with an obligation to the common good. To him, government was not the enemy, or the problem, but rather a manifestation of love of neighbor and of country.”

“On the night of his defeat in 1984 he spoke not only to the moment, as painful as it was, but to history, saying: ‘Let us continue to seek an America that is just and fair. That has been my fight … I’m confident that history will judge us honorably.’”

“And so it has.”

“One of Mr. Mondale’s favorite verses of scripture tells us much. ‘I have fought the good fight,’ St. Paul said; ‘I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’” [2 Timothy 4:7]

The first part of that chapter of Second Timothy is quoted less often, but is worth remembering. ‘Preach the word,’ the apostle wrote; ‘be prepared in season and out of season.’” [2 Timothy 4: 1-2]

“In season and out of season — justice knows no season. Truth knows no season. Freedom knows no season. Fairness knows no season. Walter Mondale knew that. He lived by that. And today we salute him for that.”

“There are children in America today who will not go hungry because of Fritz Mondale. There are Black people in America today who can vote, and work, and live more freely and fairly because of Fritz Mondale. There are women in America today who see no limit to their dreams because of Fritz Mondale. There are safer cars in America, there are rivers of clean water in America, there are enclaves of untouched wildlife in America today because of Fritz Mondale.”

“He never stopped believing in this country. He never stopped fighting for its people. And thankfully, he never stopped defending democracy.”

“He never stopped. And nor, in his memory, must we.”

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[1] Read presidential historian Jon Mecham’s remarks at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022). Professor Meacham is the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in American Presidency at Vanderbilt University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former U.S. Presidents’ Statements at Walter Mondale Memorial Service

At the May 1, 2022, memorial service for Walter Mondale, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama submitted letters of tribute for Mr. Mondale that were read. Here are excerpts from those letters (substituting Carter’s April 19, 2021, letter on Mondale’s passing due to this blogger’s inability to find the complete one for the memorial service).[1]

President Jimmy Carter

“Today [April 19, 2021] I mourn the passing of my dear friend Walter Mondale, who I consider the best vice president in our country’s history. During our administration, Fritz used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today. He was an invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world. Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior.”

In his statement that was read at the memorial service, Carter said Mondale’s “ideas and energy changed the office he held forever, and his intelligence, experience, humor and determination made me better at mine.”

President Bill Clinton

“Throughout his long life, Fritz never stopped believing in the power of public service to make a difference in people’s lives. As Minnesota Attorney General, Senator, Vice President, Democratic nominee for President, Ambassador, and private citizen, he put his deep policy knowledge, tireless work ethic, and uncommon decency and kindness to work — to expand civil rights and defend civil liberties; create more educational and economic opportunities for all Americans; and fulfill our Founders’ charge to form a more perfect union. And he did it all, in sunshine and storms, with humility, grace, and a wonderful sense of humor.”

“I will always be grateful for the more than 40 years of friendship he gave Hillary and me, and his fine service as both Ambassador to Japan and Special Envoy to Indonesia when I was President. Although those were the last public offices he held, his public service continued for another two decades, always fighting for the causes he loved and the country he believed in, and having a good time doing it.”

“As you gather to celebrate Fritz’s remarkable life, I’m thinking of his joyful spiritual reunion with Joan and Eleanor, and his characteristic conviction that surely there is something he can do to make the universe better. My heart goes out to Ted, William, his entire family, and all the people who were blessed by his friendship, inspired by his service, and enriched by his example.”

President Barack Obama

“I’m honored to pay tribute to Fritz, a man who dedicated his life to making government work for the American people.”

“In championing causes like fair housing and women’s rights, he helped put the promise of America within reach for more people. And he changed the role of vice president, so President Biden could be the last in the room for decisions during my administration — something I will always be grateful for.”

“Fritz’s lifetime of service was an incredible gift to our country. As we reflect on his legacy, may we all strive to embody his integrity, his humility, and his unwavering drive to do right by Minnesotans and people everywhere.”

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[1] Excerpts from speeches and letters read at Walter Mondale’s memorial, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Leaders, family and friends remember ‘Fritz’ Mondale, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Statement from Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Passing of Walter Mondale, The Carter Center (Apr. 19, 2021).

 

Minnesota’s U.S. Senators’ Statements at Walter Mondale Memorial 

At the May 1 memorial service for Walter Mondale, Minnesota’s U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith made the following statements of praise about him.[1]

Senator Klobuchar’s Statement

“It was not easy for Walter Mondale to run against Ronald Reagan, knowing that most people were predicting that Reagan would win.”

“It was not easy for Walter Mondale to come out of retirement and run for the Senate after we lost Paul Wellstone.”

“It was not easy for Walter Mondale to continue his work while caring for his beloved wife, Joan, and their daughter, Eleanor, through heartbreaking illnesses.”

“None of it was easy. But when saddled with enormous setbacks, Fritz didn’t stand down; he stood up. Fritz didn’t crawl under his desk or hide from public view; he simply found a different way to serve.”

“He went from being driven around with tons of Secret Service and meeting with world leaders and negotiating international treaties to going into Lunds, grocery shopping on his own and happily ending his visit with a long, engaged talk about Mideast peace with the high school kid at the checkout counter. That happened.”

“You see, being humble meant that it was much easier to be resilient.”

“Being grounded meant that no matter how high he had risen, there was always a place to come home.”

“That place was here. That place was us.”

Senator Smith’s Statement

“This week, I have been reading a lot of tributes to Mr. Mondale’s life and his legacy,” including those from Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama.

As I’ve been reading all these notes, I’ve been reading some sent by people who worked for Walter Mondale when he ran for president and never really left his orbit. One is from a former staffer, Gina Glantz, who told the story of how, when her mom got sick, and the Mayo Clinic seemed like really the only option for treatment, she worked up the nerve to ask Mr. Mondale for help. Well, Vice President Mondale called a retired nurse friend, and within weeks, Gina’s mother was at the Mayo, with the person behind the check-in desk at Mayo saying, ‘And how do you know our Fritz?’”

“So many Americans were called to action by that 1984 campaign, a campaign rooted in truth and decency and hope. And four decades later, many of them, many of you, are still involved in politics, still working to uphold the values that defined Walter Mondale’s remarkable life — and even though many of us have yet to find a boss who, really, we had such a personal connection to.”

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[1] Excerpts from speeches and letters read at Walter Mondale’s memorial, StarTribune (May 1, 2022).News Release, Klobuchar Delivers Remarks at Memorial Service for Former Vice President Walter Mondale (May 1, 2022).

 

President Biden’s Eulogy of Walter Mondale

On May 1, 2022, President Joe Biden traveled to Minneapolis to deliver his eulogy of Walter Mondale at the latter’s memorial service. Here are the highlights of the President’s remarks. [1]

“I’m moved to be with you here today  . . .[to] honor one of the great giants in American history.  And that’s not hyperbole.  Fritz was a giant in American political history.”

“I speak of a friend of five decades, about . . . the light of [our] friendship and what it meant to me personally, to my family.”

“Fritz and I first met in one of the darkest moments of my life. [After I had been elected for the first time to the U.S. Senate in 1972 and before I was sworn in,] I was at the U.S. Senate on December 18th to hire staff when I received a phone call from my fire department in Delaware [and was told,] ‘You got to come home.  There’s been an accident. . . .Your wife and daughter are dead, and your two boys may not make it.’  Fritz and Joan . . . embraced me and came to the hospital to see my boys.  They [and others] helped me find my purpose in a sea of darkness and pain. [They urged me to stay in the Senate for at least six months and then decide whether to stay in the Senate or not.]”

“My life changed again five years later.  No man deserves one great love in his life, let alone two, but I met and married Jill Biden.  I had to ask her five times. But being a spouse of a Senator who was relatively well known, because of the celebrity of how I got there and the accident, and inheriting two beautiful young boys wasn’t easy.”

“Once again, Fritz and Joan were there spreading the light.  Joan was one of the first people to reach out to Jill, and it meant the world to us.”

“Fritz was a master legislator who shone a light on those who needed it most.  The desire to lift up others stemmed from his youth, from his service as a corporal in the U.S. Army, and those early days organizing for Hubert Humphrey in parts of Minnesota that Democrats didn’t win.”

“Fritz learned early the power of bringing people together.  And I know for Fritz, no moment was brighter than when he joined forces with an African American senator from Massachusetts, Senator Edward Brooke, and they passed the Fair Housing Act. When the Act passed, Fritz spoke on the Senate floor [and said,] ‘The words ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ will mean more to millions of our fellow Americans [today with this legislation]. That was Fritz spreading . . . the light of our country, to families who had never truly known its warmth.”

“At every stage of our lives, at every inflection point, Fritz and Joan . . . were there for Jill and me and my family —on a personal level.”

“In 2008 Barack Obama called me after it was clear he was the de facto nominee and said he’d liked me to join him on the ticket, at least consider it; could he do a background check on me.  And I said, ‘No thanks, Barack.’ [But he said,] ‘there’s only one other person I’m considering.’  I said, ‘Barack, I don’t want to be Vice President.’  He said, ‘Why?’  I said, ‘Because [the VP is] basically just standby equipment. I can help you a lot more as a senator.  I’ll do everything I can.  I’ll campaign throughout the country for you.’”

Barack responded, ‘Look, would you go home and talk it over with your family?  Just talk it over.’”

“So I did.  I called Jill from the train on my cell phone. And when I got home, .. . the first person I called was Fritz before the family gathered in the back porch.  And I asked, ‘Fritz, what should I do?’  And he went into great detail. As a matter of fact, he sent me a long memorandum he prepared for President Carter when they were deciding how their relationship would work. He told me, in essence, that the vice presidency holds no inherent power.  None.  Zero.  The Vice President is merely — and it’s true — a reflection of your relationship with the President of the United States.”

“About seven years ago, I joined Fritz at a forum in his honor at George Washington University.  Fritz recounted that his greatest strength wasn’t his expertise in a particular policy area; it was the genuine personal relationship he built with President Jimmy Carter — a relationship built on real affection and trust.They sat down for lunch together every week.  Fritz said to me, ‘Make sure you get a commitment from Barack: Once a week, you have lunch to discuss whatever is on either of your minds.’”

“He was the first Vice President to have an office in the West Wing, just a few steps away from the Oval Office.”

“That was the true strength of the vice presidency, he said, a strength that Barack and I replicated in our time in office and what Kamala and I are doing today.  And she sends her regards to the whole family.  She called me before I got in the plane.”

“It was Fritz who lit the way.  [At] his core, Fritz embraced everybody with a belief that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity — everybody.  Dignity.  Not just the right to vote, dignity.”

“He was loved by the American people because he reflected the goodness of the American people, especially the people of Minnesota. You know, every senator wears on his or her sleeve the state they serve.  But the love Fritz had for the people of Minnesota ran deeper than that.  He loved you all, and you loved him back — it was obvious — because Fritz reflected the very best qualities of this state: the warmth and optimism that you reflect.”

“At every turn, Fritz reflected the light of this nation, who we are and what we can be.  He called me [after] I had said [at my] inauguration that we’re the most unique nation in all of history.  We’re the only nation founded on an idea.  Every other nation in the world is based on geography, ethnicity, religion, race.  We’re founded on an idea.  ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.’  And it goes on.”

“Fritz believed that in his gut.  I watched him every day for over 35 years in the Senate and when he was Vice President.  He united people, sharing the same light, the same hopes.  Even when we disagree, he thought that was important.”

“I’ll never forget, on a personal level, what it meant to have a friend like Fritz.  Less than four years after losing Eleanor to brain cancer and just a year after losing Joan, Fritz was there to help me again when Jill and I lost our son Beau to brain cancer after a year in Iraq.”

“I’ll never forget how Fritz reflected so much love and light into our family — again, at our darkest moments — nor will I forget coming here to Minneapolis eight years ago to say goodbye to Joan.”

“Most of you remember that Fritz went to the Mayo Clinic for quadruple bypass the very next day.  He had delayed the surgery so he could be with all of us to reflect her light.  And he put off treating his own heart because, as all you know, his heart belonged to Joan.”

“As I’ve said many times — I say to the family, seeing your mom and dad together reminded me of that great line from Christopher Marlowe’s poem: ‘Come live with me and be my love, and we shall all the pleasures prove.’ You can tell when a couple has been together a long time.  So each looks at the other with love — deep love.”

“It’s been said that memory is the power to gather roses in winter.  Well, Ted and William, your dad blessed you with an endless garden of those memories and, most of all, the memory of two extraordinary loves: a love of more than 58 years he spent together with your mom, and a love of 51 years with your sister, Eleanor. In his farewell letter, Fritz wrote that he was eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor, two unbreakable loves.”

“Jill Biden wanted to do a garden at the Vice President’s Residence so that every family that ever had lived there would have stones [engraved with the names of] the couple and their children. When I called Fritz to tell him about it, he came over to the [White House]. He asked if he could go inside.  I said, ‘Of course.’  He wanted to walk up to the third floor. [There he] stopped in front of a door and opened it and just stared.  After  a few minutes, he came down and said, ‘That was Eleanor’s room.  I so miss her.’”

“Well, they’re all together now, for all time.”

“Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.’ There is no doubt that the institution of the Senate and the institution of the Vice President reflect the profound legacy of Fritz Mondale. But it’s not a lengthened shadow; it’s his light.  And it’s up to each of us now to reflect that light that Fritz was all about, to reflect Fritz’s goodness and grace, the way he made people feel no matter who you were.”

“Just imagine what our nation could achieve if we followed Fritz’s example of honor, decency, integrity, literally just the service to the common good.  There would be nothing — nothing, nothing, nothing beyond our reach.”

“I hope we all can be Fritz’s mirror, continue to spread his light.  Because you know he was one of the finest men you’ve ever known, one of the most decent people I ever dealt with, and one of the toughest, smartest men I’ve ever worked with.”

“You were lucky to have had him.  Look at things, he was lucky to have had you.”

“God bless you, my dear friend.  Among the greatest of all Americans.”

“The highest compliment, my Grandfather Finnegan used to say, you can give a man or a woman — he was a good man.”

“Fritz Mondale was a good man.”

=============================

[1] Remarks by President Biden at the Memorial Service of Vice President Walter Mondale, White House (May 2, 2022); Memorial Service for Walter Mondale, dwkcommentaries.com (May 4, 2020).

 

Memorial Service for Walter Mondale 

On May 1, 2022, a memorial service for Walter “Fritz” Mondale was held at the University of Minnesota’s Northrup Auditorium. He had died on April 19, 2021, but a service at that time was not possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and his son, Ted, said his father “didn’t want to lie in state; he didn’t want to be in Washington, he wanted to be here with you” because “you reflected what he would care about and who he is.”[1]

Remarks at the Service

Remarks at this service were provided by U.S. President Joe Biden, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Minnesota’s U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel, Larry Jacobs (the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota), Jon Meacham (the Robert M. Rogers Chair in the American Presidency at Vanderbilt University), Josie Johnson (Minnesota civil rights icon), Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen (senior pastor at Mondale’s Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian) and Mondale’s sons, Ted and William. (Some of these comments will be contained in subsequent posts.)

Similar comments were voiced by others in the Washington Post.[2]

The Song “Tomorrow”[3]

The song “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” one of Mondale’s favorite songs, was sung at the memorial service by 14-year-old Lillian Hochman from Hopkins, Minnesota. She had met Mondale when she was in preschool with his granddaughter and subsequently joined her family for weekend breakfasts with Mondale while he followed her budding stage career with Minneapolis’ Children’s Theater Company. Although he was out of town when she performed in “Annie” in 2017, he told her that the show was his favorite.

Lillian is pretty sure she knows why this song was a favorite for Mondale. She said the title character in the show sings this song to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, promising that despite the Great Depression, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” The song is “really about bringing hope to a nation and to the president, which I think is one reason for it’s [being Mondale’s] favorite song and show.”

================================

[1] Bierschbach & Nelson, Leaders, family and friends remember “Fritz” Mondale, StarTribune (May 1, 2022); Vice President Walter F. Mondale ’56 Eulogized at Memorial Service at Northrup, University of Minnesota (May 1, 2022); Remarks by President Biden at the Memorial Service of Vice President Walter Mondale, White House (May 2, 2022); Baker, Biden Extols Mondale as ‘One of the Great Giants of American History,’ N.Y. Times (May 1, 2022); Regan & Viser, Biden pays tribute to friend and mentor Walter Mondale, Wash. Post (May 1, 2020); Mena, Biden Honors Walter Mondale at Memorial, W.S.J. (May 1, 2022); Klobuchar Delivers Remarks At Memorial Service for Former Vice President Walter Mondale (May 1, 2022); Excerpts from speeches and letters read at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022); Read presidential historian Jon Mecham’s remarks at Walter Mondale’s memorial service, StarTribune (May 2, 2022).

[2] Mannes, Analysis: Her’s what Kamala Harris owes to Walter Mondale, Wash. Post (April 25, 2021); Balz, Mondale lost the presidency but permanently changed the office of vice presidency, Wash. Post (April 19, 2021); Tumulty, Opinion: Walter Mondale reinvented the vice presidency. Both Biden and Harris should thank him for it, Wash. Post (April 19, 2021).

[3] Hewitt, ‘Annie’ star sang tribute to family friend Walter Mondale at memorial, StarTribune (May 2, 2022).

 

 

 

 

More Criticism of U.S. Means of Addressing Immigration Needs of Afghan Evacuees  

This blog previously discussed the complexity of meeting the U.S. immigration needs of Afghan evacuees, estimated at 65,000 to 199,000 less than two weeks ago.[1] This analysis has been underscored by John T. Medeiros, an experienced U.S. immigration attorney and the Chair of the Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.[2]

According to Medeiros, this subject was the focus of a recent conference call with nearly 100 immigration lawyers across the U.S.

He noted that he and many other immigration lawyers have been focused on assisting “family members and friends of Afghan allies in applying for humanitarian parole, which the federal Immigration Service says “is used to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible to the United States for a temporary period of time due to an emergency.”

This conference call emphasized the following current status of this situation:

  • “Within the past two months there have been over 17,000 applications for humanitarian parole filed with the USCIS.”
  • “Each application includes a filing fee of $575; in the past two months the USCIS has received an estimated $9.8 million in fees.”
  • “While there is an option to request a fee waiver, almost all applications filed with a fee waiver have been rejected by the USCIS.”
  • “For the pending 17,000 applications there are a total of six USCIS adjudicators.”
  • “Since Sept. 1, USCIS has not processed any applications for individuals still in Afghanistan.”
  • “Since that same date, USCIS has processed ‘a handful of applications’ for Afghan nationals displaced in a third country.”
  • “USCIS is expected to soon announce its plans to adjudicate those applications that remain pending, with priority given to individuals who are not physically in Afghanistan. The rationale for this decision is that third-country nationals would be able to obtain the required travel permission in the form of a visa at a U.S. consular post in the third country, while visa services have been suspended within Afghanistan.”
  • “It is unclear if [U.S.] visas will be issued to displaced Afghan nationals who are not in possession of a valid passport.”

This horrible situation, said Medeiros, caused the participants in this conference call to demand the following actions:

“[We] call on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to immediately allocate sufficient resources to the USCIS for the swift adjudication of the pending 17,000 applications for humanitarian parole and to approve applications for fee waivers for applicants who meet the eligibility criteria.”

“After these applications have been approved, we call on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to expedite the vetting process and the issuance of visas to displaced Afghan nationals, including those who are not in possession of a valid passport.”

“[We] call on the office of the White House to authorize the U.S. Department of Defense to send military flights to countries with concentrations of displaced Afghan nationals, and evacuate those with valid claims to asylum, Special Immigrant Visas or any other immigration benefit.”

“[We] call on Congress to swiftly pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide a path to permanent residence for those Afghan evacuees who have risked their lives in support of U.S. military efforts. It is the least we can do to honor the sacrifices our Afghan allies have made for the benefit of American democracy.”

Conclusion

These recommendations are endorsed by this blogger, who is a retired lawyer who did not specialize in immigration law, but who in the mid-1980s learned certain aspects of immigration and asylum law and then served as a pro bono lawyer for asylum seekers from El Salvador and other countries.[3]

This endorsement is also buttressed by my current service on the Refugee Co-Sponsorship Team at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, which is now co-sponsoring an Afghan family with the assistance of the Minnesota Council of Churches. [4]

===============================

[1]  Immense Problems Hampering U.S. Efforts To Resettle Afghans, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 22, 2021).

[2] Medeiros, We’re still failing Afghan allies. Why no outrage?, StarTribune (Nov. 2, 2021); John t. Medeiros [Biography];  American Immigration Lawyers Association, Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter.

[3]  Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer, dwkcommentareis.com (May 24, 2011); My Pilgrimage to El Salvador, April 1989, dwkcommentaries.com (May 25,  2011); Teaching the International Human Rights Course, dwkcommentaries.com (July 1, 2011).

[4]  Schulze, Campbell & Krohnke, Our Sojourners Have Arrived, Westminster News, p.7  (Nov. 2021).

U.S. Resettlement of Refugees and Recent Afghan Evacuees

The U.S. currently is engaged in resettling in this country refugees from around the world under previously established international refugee resettlement processes as well as recent Afghan evacuees under newly modified processes for Afghans.

Here is a summary of the legal requirements and administrative procedures for these important developments.

U.S. Resettlement of Refugees

  1. International Legal Protection of Refuges[1]

In 1951 an international conference of diplomats adopted an international treaty to protect refugees (Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees).

This treaty went into effect or force in April 1954 after its ratification by six states. However, the U.S. did not directly ratify this treaty, but did so indirectly in 1968 when under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson the U.S. ratified a treaty amendment (Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees).

The U.S., however, did not adopt implementing legislation until 1980, when President Jimmy Carter led the adoption of the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980, which included the treaty’s following definition of “refugee” (with U.S. express addition for “past” persecution):

  • “ (A)ny person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality . . . and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of [past] persecution or a well-founded fear of [future] persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.. . . ”

As of January 20, 2020, there were 146 parties to the Convention and 147 to the Protocol.

  1. International Resettlement of Refugees[2]

After international cooperation on resettlement of specific groups of refugees, 1956-1995, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1995 organized the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement for the UNHCR, nation states and civil society. By the end of 2019, these consultations had established a global resettlement policy and procedures to attempt to provide locations for such resettlement that can provide the services that refugees need. These procedures have resulted in resettlement of over 1 million refugees: 90 percent of whom came from Myanmar, Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia and were resettled in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

At the end of 2019, the UNHCR estimated there were 26 million refugees in the world, about one half of whom are under the age of 18. This group is part of the 79.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world (the other 53.5 million are forcibly displaced within their own countries and thus not entitled to refugee status).

  1. U.S. Resettlement of Refugees[3]

The U.S. has participated in this international resettlement program under the overall direction of the Departments of State and Homeland Security.

Under U.S. law the U.S. President establishes annual quotas for such resettlements. The largest such quota was 200,000 in 1980 when President Carter led the U.S. adoption of the Refugee Act of 1980. In 1999 under President Clinton the quota was 132,631, and in 2016 under President Obama it was 84,994.

For Fiscal 2019 President Trump reduced the number of refugees for resettlement in U.S. to 15,000 and required cities and counties to file written affirmative consents for such resettlements with the State Department, but a federal court held that requirement was illegal. Nevertheless, many states, including Minnesota, granted such consents along with statements about the many contributions by refugees to their states.

President Biden initially said he would maintain the 15,000 quota set by Trump for this fiscal year, but after strong objections by influential Senators and others, the White House on May 3, 2021, stated the it was revising the quota to 62,500 for this fiscal year although it was unlikely that it would meet that number by that year’s end on 9/30/21. President Biden also said that he intends to increase the quota for the next fiscal year to 125,000.

  1. Refugee Resettlement in Minnesota [4]

From 2005 through 2019 the State of Minnesota had resettled 33,189 refugees. The largest numbers came from Somalia (13,674), Burma (8,604), Ethiopia (2,194), Laos (2,042), Iraq (1,290), Bhutan (1,188) and Liberia (1,171).

For Fiscal 2021 (ending 9/30/21), Minnesota had a resettlement goal of 500, but as of 5/12/21 had received only 30. They came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Ukraine and Republic of Moldova (Eastern European county and former part of USSR). Because of COVID-19, the goal of 500 probably will not be met.

For Fiscal 2022 (before the evacuation of Afghans), Minnesota expected to have a resettlement goal of 1,900 given President Biden’s stated intent to increase the national total to 125,000.

Such resettlements are coordinated by refugee resettlement agencies in the State: Minnesota Council of Churches (Refugee Services), International Institute of Minnesota, Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota and Arrive Ministries.

Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, where this blogger is a member, is launching its Refugee Co-Sponsorship Team of six to twelve individuals under the leadership of three “champions” with guidance of the Minnesota Council of Churches and anticipates receiving its first refugee family this October.

Our Team’s commitment is for four to six months starting with setting up an apartment selected by the Council with furnishings that it and our Team provides; welcoming the family on their arrival at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and transporting them to their apartment;  helping the family’s orientation to their new neighborhood, city and services; transporting them to various meetings and shopping; assisting school registration for any children and adult ESL enrollment; providing information about various public services and obligations; and helping them find employment. In short, being friends to our new residents. The co-sponsorship ends with a closing ceremony, transitioning the relationship to mutual friendship, rather than a continued helping relationship. [5]

U.S. Resettlement of Recent Afghan Evacuees.

The recent turmoil in Afghanistan has resulted  in the U.S. evacuation from that country of approximately 130,000 people (124,000 Afghans and 6,000 U.S. citizens).

Many of the Afghan allies with U.S. special immigrant visa applications and their families who recently escaped Afghanistan were flown from Kabul to Washington, D.C. for their subsequent transfer to U.S. forts in Virginia (Fort Lee),Texas (Fort Bliss) and western Wisconsin (Fort McCoy, which is about 169 miles southeast of Minneapolis). Others were flown to U.S. military bases in other countries for processing and hoped-for transfers to the U.S.[6]

This summary is based upon the cited sources with recognition that this is a very complex and changing situation and readers’ corrections and amplifications are most welcome.

  1. Legal Status of Afghan Evacuees[7]

Most, if not all, of these Afghans have not been through the previously described procedures for resettlement of refugees and have not been determined to meet the requirements for refugee status. (Some articles erroneously refer to them as “Afghan refugees.”)

Instead, they are being vetted by U.S. agencies for meeting the following requirements for Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (“SIVs”):

  • employment in Afghanistan for at least one year between October 7, 2001, and December 31, 2023, by or on behalf of the U.S. government or by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or a successor mission in a capacity that required the applicant to serve as an interpreter or translator for U.S. military personnel while traveling off-base with U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF or to perform activities for U.S. military personnel stationed at ISAF; and
  • Have experienced or be experiencing an ongoing threat as a consequence of their employment.

Alternatively some Afghans might be eligible for Priority 2 (P-2) designation granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program access for Afghans and their eligible family members by satisfying one of the following conditions:

  • “Afghans who do not meet the minimum time-in-service for a SIV but who work or worked as employees of contractors, locally-employed staff, interpreters/translators for the U.S. government, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOXRX-A), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or Resolute Support;”
  • “Afghans who work or worked for a U.S. government-funded program or project in Afghanistan supported through a U.S. government grant or cooperative agreement;” or
  • “Afghans who are or were employed in Afghistan by a U.S.-based media organization or non-governmental organization.”

Afghans also could be eligible for “the Priority (P-1) program by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement who are referred to the P-1 program . . .  by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. embassy, or a designated NGO.”

However, an Associated Press reporter claims that “the majority will arrive without visas as ‘humanitarian parolees,’ lacking a path to legal U.S. residency and the benefits and services offered to traditional refugees, according to U.S. officials and worried aid groups working closely with the government.” Instead, “Afghan parolees who have arrived at U.S. military bases will be eligible for an ad hoc State Department program that provides limited assistance for up to 90 days, including a one-time $1,250 stipend. But they will not have the full range of medical, counseling and resettlement services available to immigrants who arrive through the U.S. refugee program.”

  1. U.S. Administrative Agencies Involved in “Operation Allies Welcome[8]

On August 19, 56 Senators sent a bipartisan letter to President Biden calling for “the urgent evacuation of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and their families, as well as the full and immediate implementation of [the above legislation] to expand the Afghan SIV program and streamline the application process.”

That message was in accord with the Biden Administration’s desires. On August 29, President Biden directed the Department of Homeland Security to be the lead agency coordinating this resettlement effort and that agency’s Secretary (Alejandro N. Mayorkas) simultaneously appointed Robert J. Fenton, Jr. with 29 years of experience in FEMA large-scale response and recovery efforts to lead the interagency Unified Coordination Group in this effort. He will be working with Jack Markell, a former Delaware Governor and now the White House’s coordinator of “Operation Allies Welcome.”

  1. Resettlement of Afghan Evacuees in U.S. [9]

Operation Allies Welcome is asking the nonprofit organizations that have contracted with the U.S. State Department for resettlement of refugees to also handle the resettlement of the Afghan evacuees. This task is made much more difficult by last year’s shrinkage of these agencies caused by President Trump’s reduction of the quota for such resettlement to 15,000 and the associated reduction of federal financial support for same and by the size and unresolved issues about the Afghan evacuees.

  1. Societal Reactions to Afghan Resettlement [10]

There are general reports about positive reactions to such resettlement from U.S. citizens and organizations.

The State of Minnesota did so in an August 19, 2021, letter to President Biden from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. It stated that Minnesota “in the past . . . has stepped forward to help those who are fleeing desperate situations and need a safe place to call home” while acknowledging, “New Minnesotans strengthen our communities and contribute to the social fabric of our state. They are our neighbors.” Therefore, “we [in Minnesota] stand ready to work with you and your administration to welcome [Afghan] families as this effort to provide safety and refuge continues.”

Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar has voiced a similar opinion by offering her office’s assistance to American citizens and Afghan allies looking to evacuate that country and by signing a bipartisan letter to the President urging support for evacuation efforts.

In addition, Temple Israel of Minneapolis is embarking on a program to help some of these Afghans to resettle in Minnesota and has enlisted Westminster Presbyterian Church as a co-sponsor for such resettlements. The Temple’s program probably springs from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) as well as a continuous Jewish presence in the territory of Afghanistan from the 8th century CE until the 20th century.[11]

Conclusion[12]

Westminster’s involvement with immigrants is not new in our 160 years. Indeed, the church was established in 1857 by Scottish and Welsh newcomers on land that had been home to the Dakota people for many generations. In 1870 we established our first global mission partnership after our third pastor had visited China and in the 1880s began a formal ministry teaching English and providing support to Chinese immigrants that continued in the 20th century.

Our church also has partnerships with Protestant churches in Cuba, Cameroon and Palestine.

These Westminster ministries are inspired by various Biblical passages.

The book of Leviticus says, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you. You shall love the sojourner as yourself, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19: 33-34.) (The Hebrew word for “alien” is “ger,”which means stranger in the land, one who sojourns among you.)

Jesus, of course, told stories about heroes who are disliked foreigners, like the good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) , or when He welcomes those whom others shun as outsiders, like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4: 1-26) and when He ignores the then current mandate no to pay attention to people living with leprosy or other illnesses (Matthew 8: 1-3).  As our Pastor, Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen said in his recent sermon, “As Christians, our core conviction insists on hospitality to those deemed other by the world around us—and anyone else known to be the most vulnerable in the community.”

======================================

[1] UNHCR, Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of RefugeesRefugee Act of 1980; Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Wikipedia; List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: LAW (REFUGEE & Asylum).

[2]  UNHCR, The History of Resettlement (2019).

[3] U.S. State Dep’t, About Refugee AdmissionsU.S. State Governments Celebrate Refugee Accomplishments, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 2, 2020); U.S. State Dep’t, Report to Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021 (Oct. 22, 2020); U.S. Reduces Refugee Admissions to 15,000 for Fiscal 2021, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct.  2, 2020); U.S. State Dep’t, Report to Congress on the Proposed Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021 (Feb. 12, 2021); Joe Biden Raises Trump refugee cap  after backlash, BBC News (May 4, 2021);UNHCR, UNHCR applauds US decision to increase refugee resettlement (May 3, 2001). Minnesota Council of Churches, Refugee Services.

[5]  Minnesota Council of Churches, Refugee Services; Minnesota Council of Churches, Help Afghan Refugees (Aug. 30, 2021); Campbell, Schulze & Krohnke, Our Refugee Family Co-Sponsorship: An Invitation to Love the Sojourner Among Us, Westminster News (Sept. 2021).

[6] U.S. Defense Dep’t, U.S. Seeks to Open More Locations to Aid Evacuation From Kabul, General Says, DOD News (Aug. 21, 2021); Assoc. Press, Afghan refugees arrive, temporarily, in northern Virginia, Wash. Post (Aug. 22, 2021); Assoc. Press, Afghan refugees begin arriving at Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin, StarTribune (Aug. 23, 2021); Musa, The United States Needs an Afghan Refugee Resettlement Act, Foreign Policy (Aug. 19, 2021), ; Baghdassarian & Carney, Special Immigrant Visas for the United States’ Afghan Allies, Lessons Learned from Promises Kept and Broken, Lawfare (Aug. 19, 2021),

[7] State Dep’t, Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans—Who Were Employed by/on behalf of the U.S. Government; State Dep’t, U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Priority Designation 2 for Afghan Nationals (Aug. 2, 2021); Press Release, BREAKING: Senate Passes Shaheen-Ernst Bill to Protect Afghan Allies through SIV Program as Part of Supplemental Spending Bill (July 29, 2021); Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, Public Law 117-331, enacted on July 30, 2021; Assoc. Press, For Afghan evacuees arriving to U.S., a tenuous legal status and little financial support, Wash. Post (Sept. 1, 2021).

[8] Shaheen, Ernst Lead Bipartisan Effort Urging the Administration on Immediate Evacuation & Full Implementation of their SIV Legislation Aug. 19, 2021). Homeland Security Dep’t, DHS to Serve as Lead Federal Agency Coordinating Efforts to Resettle Vulnerable Afghans, (Aug. 29, 2021); Sacchetti, Miroff & Demirjian, Biden names former Delaware governor Jack Markell to serve as point person on Afghan resettlement in the United States, Wash. Post (Sept. 3, 2021).

[9] U.S. Refugee Organizations Race to Prepare for Influx of Afghans, W.S.J. (Aug. 31, 2021). Hackman, Afghan Refugees in the U.S.: How They’re Vetted, Where They Are going and How to Help, W.S.J. (Sept. 3, 2021). Assoc. Press, US faith groups unite to help Afghan refugees after war, StarTribune (Sept. 2, 2021).

[10] Office of Governor Walz & Lt. Governor Flanagan, Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan: Minnesota Stands ready to Welcome Afghan Refugee Families (Aug. 19, 2021); Assoc. Press, Walz extends Minnesota’s welcome mat to Afghan refugees (StarTribune (Aug. 20, 2021). News Release, Klobuchar Announces Office Assistance for Americans and Afghan Allies Evacuating Afghanistan (Aug. 18, 2021).

[11] HIAS Statement on Afghanistan Crisis (Aug. 16, 2021); History of the Jews in Afghanistan, Wikipedia; Oreck, Afghanistan Virtual Jewish History Tour, Jewish Virtual Library; The Jews of Afghanistan, Museum of the Jewish People.  Westminster’s Response to Crisis in Afghanistan (Aug. 8, 2021).

[12] Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen & Rev. David Tsai Shinn, Sermon: Concerning the Sojourner (June 20, 2021). Westminster Presbyterian Church, Global Partners Ministry Team.

 

U.S. Reengages with U.N. Human Rights Council

On February 8, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced that the U.S. was reengaging with the U.N. Human Rights Council. Here we will examine that development after first looking at the U.S.’ prior rocky relationship with the Council.

The U.S. Rocky Relationship with the Council

 Creation of the Council.[1]

On March 16,  2006, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution creating the Council to be “responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner; . . . [to] address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon; . . [and to] promote the effective coordination and the mainstreaming of human rights within the United Nations system.”

This work of the Council “shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation, with a view to enhancing the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.”

That General Assembly resolution also provided “that the Council shall consist of forty-seven Member States, which shall be elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly; the membership shall be based on equitable geographical distribution, and seats shall be distributed as follows among regional groups: Group of African States, thirteen; Group of Asian States, thirteen; Group of Eastern European States, six; Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, eight; and Group of Western European and other States (including the U.S.), seven; the members of the Council shall serve for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.”

The General Assembly vote on this organizing resolution was 170 to 4.

U.S. Non-Involvement with the Council, 2007-2009[2]

In 2006, the U.S.was one of the four negative votes on creating the Council; the others were Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau while Belarus, Iran and Venezuela abstained. Soon thereafter the State Department announced that it would not be a candidate for membership in the May 2006 first election of members and instead would support other countries with strong human rights records and might run for a seat in 2007. But the U.S. agreed to help finance the Council and pledged to support it.

Among the Republican critics opposing  the panel were Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota; Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman; and Representative Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, who sponsored a bill that would withhold U.S. dues from the United Nations. The opposition was bolstered by President George W. Bush and by John R. Bolton, then the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., who said, “I believe rather strongly that our leverage in terms of the performance of the new council is greater by the U.S. not running and sending the signal ‘this is not business as usual’ this year than if we were to run.”

When Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, proposed a resolution on March 31 calling for an American boycott of the new council, Representative Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, another Republican detractor of the United Nations, put out a statement urging the resolution’s defeat. Human rights groups speculated that the United States was worried that revelations of abuses of detainees in Iraq and of clandestine prisons abroad had raised fears in the George W. Bush administration that it could not get the 96 votes in the 191-member General Assembly needed for election.

This U.S. decision not to support the Council was criticized by Human Rights Watch, and Robert Wexler (Dem., FL), a member of the House International Relations Committee, who said, “This decision reflects the colossal diplomatic failures of Ambassador Bolton. It’s a national disgrace for America that we will not be a presence in guiding and leading that council in a productive direction, and that under Mr. Bolton’s leadership at the U.N., the world’s single superpower cannot muster up the necessary votes to win an election.”

In Fiscal 2009, a provision enacted by Congress prohibited U.S. funding of the Council.

U.S.Involvment with the Council, 2009-18[3]

In 2009, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would seek membership in the Council. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Susan Rice, said “ the decision was made out of a belief “that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.”

Thereafter, on May 12, 2009, the U.N. General Assembly elected the U.S. to the Council for a three year-term (2010-12) and on November 12, 2012 re-elected the U.S. for another three-year term (2013-15). However, under the Council’s  term-limitation provision, the U.S. was not eligible for re-election in 2015 for another such term.

But on October 28, 2016, it was elected to another three-year term (2017-19), but it did not complete that term when the U.S. withdrew from membership on June 19, 2018.

U.S. Withdrawal from Council Membership, June 19, 2018[4]

On June 19, 2018, then U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley jointly announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the Council. According to the Secretary, “the Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with many of the world’s worst human-rights abuses going ignored and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself. The only thing worse than a council that does almost nothing to protect human rights is a council that covers for human-rights abuses — and is therefore an obstacle to progress and an impediment to change.”

These comments were endorsed by Ambassador Haley. “The Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with many of the world’s worst human-rights abuses going ignored and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself. The only thing worse than a council that does almost nothing to protect human rights is a council that covers for human-rights abuses — and is therefore an obstacle to progress and an impediment to change.”

This withdrawal was severely criticized at the time by Rep. Eliot Engel, the ranking Democratic member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, and others.

Afterwards Ambassador Haley criticized U.S. human rights groups for their failure to support her preceding efforts to reform the Council in the U.N. General Assembly, The response from such groups was pressing the General Assembly for the U.S. proposals would only have invited efforts to weaken the Council from Russia, China and other nations.

The Biden Administration’s Reengagement with the Council, 2021-[5]

On February 8, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced that the U.S. was reengaging with the U.N. Human Rights Council. “The Biden administration has re-committed the United States to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights, and equality. Effective use of multilateral tools is an important element of that vision, and in that regard the President has instructed the Department of State to re-engage immediately and robustly with the UN Human Rights Council.”

“We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel. However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”

“When it works well, the Human Rights Council shines a spotlight on countries with the worst human rights records and can serve as an important forum for those fighting injustice and tyranny. The Council can help to promote fundamental freedoms around the globe, including freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and religion or belief as well as the fundamental rights of women, girls, LGBTQI+ persons, and other marginalized communities. To address the Council’s deficiencies and ensure it lives up to its mandate, the United States must be at the table using the full weight of our diplomatic leadership.”

“In the immediate term, the United States will engage with the Council as an observer, and in that capacity will have the opportunity to speak in the Council, participate in negotiations, and partner with others to introduce resolutions. It is our view that the best way to improve the Council is to engage with it and its members in a principled fashion. We strongly believe that when the United States engages constructively with the Council, in concert with our allies and friends, positive change is within reach.”

This decision was criticized by former Ambassador Haley. “If Biden rejoins the council whose membership includes dictatorial regimes & some of the world’s worst human rights violators,” Ms. Haley wrote on Twitter last month, “it will fly in the face of our fight for human rights.” Joining her was a letter from 40 House Republicans, who said the Council was “disproportionately targeting” Israel over other members.

The Council’s current members include longtime U.S. allies such as the U.K., France and Germany. But the roster also includes countries such as China, Russia, Cuba, Somalia, Eritrea, Uzbekistan, Sudan — states that are deemed “not free” in the most recent rankings from Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization.

Conclusion[6]

This blogger concurs in the decision to rejoin the Council. Yes, it has many flaws, but the U.S. as an advocate for human rights needs to be participating in its debates to encourage  greater respect for international human rights. Obviously this blogger rejects the editorial opinion of the Wall Street Journal that a “leading conceit of Joe Biden’s foreign policy is that the U.S. can reform international organizations—and make them live up to their ostensibly noble purposes—simply by showing up. History shows that America’s involvement condones the farce rather than ending it.”

One of the unique procedures the Council has developed to help fulfill its mission is Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights records and issues in every U.N. member (and thus is “Universal”) every 4½ years (and thus is “Periodic”). Each such UPR concludes with recommendations (not orders) for improving human rights from members and Council officers.

As always, comments of agreement or disagreement or elaboration are always appreciated.

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[1] U.N. Human Rights Council, Welcome to the Human Rights Council; U.N. General Assembly, Resolution 60/251 (Mar. 15, 2006).

[2] Hoge, U.S. Won’t Seek a Seat on the U.N. Rights Council, N.Y. Times (April 7, 2006).

[3] U.N. General Assembly, Election of Human Rights Council Members (12 May 2009); U.N. General Assembly, Election of Human Rights Council Members (12 Nov. 2012).

[4] Harris, Trump Administration Withdraws U.S. From U.N. Human Rights Council, N.Y. Times (June 19, 2018); Harris, Haley Blames Watchdog Groups for U.S. Withdrawal From U.N. Rights Council, N.Y. Times (June 20, 2018).

[5] State Dep’t, Secretary Blinken Press Statement: U.S. Decision To Re-engage with the UN Human Rights Council (Feb. 8, 2021); Hudson, U.S. rejoins U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing Trump Era Policy, Wash. Post (Feb. 8, 2021); Rogers, Biden Administration Moves to Rejoin U.N. Human Rights Council, N.Y. Times (Feb.7, 2021); Chappell, Biden Orders U.S. To Re-engage With U.N. Human Rights Council Immediately, npr-news (Feb. 8, 2021); Assoc. Press, U.S. officials: Biden administration moves to rejoin UN Human Rights Council in another reversal of Trump foreign policies, Wash. Post (Feb. 7, 2021).

[6]  Prior posts have discussed the U.S. and the Council (List of Posts to dwkcommentaries.com—Topical: United States (POLITICS) [“U.S. & U.N. Human Rights Council” section). This blog also has discussed  the Council’s 2018 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Cameroon and Cuba (List of Posts to dwkcommentaries.com—Topical: CAMEROON; List of Posts to dwkcommentaries.com—Topical: Cuba [Cuban Human Rights section]. See also Editorial, Hope Over Experience at the U.N. (Feb. 8, 2021).

 

 

As always, comments of agreement or disagreement or elaboration are always appreciated.

Wall Street Journal: Repeal the Electoral Count Act of 1887 

On January 6th, as we all know, there was an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that caused the death of five people, threatened the lives of others and destroyed  U.S. government property.

The “business” of Congress that day was to certify the prior presidential votes of the Electoral College.as required by the Electoral Count Act of 1887 [“ECA”}.[1]

That statute, said  a January 26th editorial in the Wall Street Journal, should be repealed. According to the Journal, the ECA “was intended to resolve contested presidential elections’ in an era when the electoral votes were “delivered to Congress by train or carriage.” Now there is no such need when “results are broadcast in real time.”

In recent years, however, “it has mainly been used by partisans in Congress to exploit the ceremonial process of counting electoral votes. . . .In the wake of the Capitol invasion [this year], the ECA is ripe for an overhaul that reins in Congress’s increasingly destabilizing role in presidential elections. Repealing the law would make future challenges, even by the most willful candidates, less likely to spin out of control.”

“The ECA clashes with principles of  federalism and the separation of powers. The Framers didn’t want the executive branch to be beholden to the legislative branch, so they designed an Electoral College to elect the President independent of Congress. Voters in each state register their choice for President by choosing a slate of electors, whose votes are then transmitted to Congress to be logged.”

The editorial concluded, “If the 117th Congress wants to firm up the legitimacy of election outcomes, then restoring the constitutional balance by repealing this dated legislation should be a priority.”

This blogger concurs in this half-way judgment of the Journal. Instead, the Electoral College should be abolished by a constitutional amendment.[2]

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[1] Editorial, The Law That Fueled the Capitol Riot, W.S. J. (Jan. 26, 2021); [Electoral Count Act], 3 U.S. Code sec. 15; Electoral Count Act, Wikipedia.

[2] E.g., Democrats Have Two Years To Prove U.S. Political System Works dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 27, 2021).