Former vice president and U.S. Senator Walter Mondale was interviewed by the Pioneer Press recently. The St. Croix’s “elder statesman” had a lot to say about the history of its protection, and its future.
Mondale will lead a discussion tonight (Thursday, May 21) in Stillwater about the river today and in years to come.
1. “We got there just in time.”
The St. Croix River was poised for major development along its course when Mondale, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, and others included it in the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.
2. “It wasn’t a big struggle.”
Protecting the St. Croix had strong local and bipartisan support at the time. Minnesota’s Republican governor Al Quie also supported it. Imagine trying to pass such legislation today.
3. “It’s over. I don’t want to dwell on it.”
Anyone who has driven or rode a boat past the Stillwater bridge construction site knows it’s being built. Mondale said he is worried that exempting the project from the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act will set a dangerous precedent, but all that’s left to do now is ensure the bridge doesn’t have any greater impact on the St. Croix than necessary.
4. “Buy yourself a river.”
Mondale worries that average Americans today are discouraged by the political system. The perception is that powerful interests can get whatever they want.
5. “Instead of paying a psychiatrist, I go out there and get better.”
The St. Croix is clearly still important to Mondale, who has a house on it in Osceola, and a boat he calls “the African Queen — it’s the oldest pontoon in Western society.”
6. “It’s just what we dreamed of.”
Describing summer scenes of his grandkids paddling down the river, or jumping off the Cedar Bend swing bridge, or groups enjoying the big sandbar below the bridge, Mondale says it was exactly the goal of protecting it as a Wild & Scenic River.
7. “Be honest and kind. Love your friends.”
This is the advice Mondale has for college students and young people today. He says we need to get better at listening and compromising in this country.
Click here to read the full interview.