How has your Norwegian ancestry influenced you as an elected official?
My Great-Grandfater and Great-Grandmother Hinjum emigrated from Norway in the early 1900s, settling in North Dakota. It was their daughter (my grandmother) and her mother who fostered my early interest in public affairs. My Grandma Goldie and my mother, who were Republicans, taught me by example that individual viewpoints matter and need to be respected.
The art of civil discourse is a Scandinavian tradition, and one that we honored and were expected to live by in my family. While we didn’t always agree about how to solve a problem, we talked about it in an open and respectful way, whether it was around our kitchen table or in the backyard. Hearing each person's unique vantage point helped me to better shape my own beliefs.
Another Norwegian ethic we shared that translates into my policy decisions was a compassionate approach to policies aimed at ending injustice in our community. I value this special gift from the elders in my family, especially now during the current health care debate in Congress.
Why did you join the Friends of Norway Caucus?
Throughout my career in public service, I have been a champion for excellence in education, protecting the environment, expanding health care access, and fiscal responsibility. After I was elected to represent the families of Minnesota's Fourth District in the United States Congress, I became a member of the Friends of Norway Caucus, which was founded by my friend and former Minnesota Congressman Martin Olav Sabo.
I support the goal of the Caucus to enhance the relationship between the United States and Norway. This cooperation is vital to both nations, since there are more than 5 million Americans of Norwegian ancestry. In September, I met with the Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland in the Twin Cities and expressed my commitment to working with my colleagues in the Caucus to bolster the connection between our two nations.
How do you describe the nature of United States-Norwegian relations?
The United States and Norway have long had a strong relationship, founded on cooperation on important bilateral and regional issues, as well as on shared values. Our countries are engaged on every level, including on economic, security and cultural matters, in a relationship that reflects a shared commitment to further strengthening our relationship. The strength of our friendship allows our two nations to openly engage on issues for which we might not share a common perspective, and work together to build common ground on issues of great importance to our citizens.
Norway holds a strategic position within the European community, and through its membership in NATO and the European Economic Area, Norway is a voice of reason in security matters that impact both its region and the world. In addition, Norway is a global leader in providing humanitarian aid to crises around the world, in aiding refugees, and in promoting human rights around the globe. I commend the Norwegian government for the important and life-saving work it is engaged in around the world.
As a Minnesotan, I and many of my constituents feel a particular bond to Norway, as so many ancestors of Minnesotans come from that great country. The strong links that have formed between Minnesota and Norway extend to business partnerships and social connections. Minnesotans also share with Norwegians the strong desire in helping to alleviate the suffering that is a daily struggle for so many around the world. Both Minnesotans and Norwegians feel compelled to act in the name of peace and democracy around the world, and I am proud there is such a strong Norwegian influence in Minnesota.