From the Left Hand Corner - A giant among men
This week, we in Minnesota will be commemorating the most memorable life of former Congressman James Oberstar, who unexpectedly departed from this world the first week in May.
He was known as Jim to the many who were fortunate enough to enjoy repeated communication. He remains with us as we look around the 8th District. His prints and tracks are everywhere.
Jim was as honest and principled as his tenure was long; but he was always insistent that the district got its fair share of what good government has to offer.
In his amazing 36 years as our congressman, and the 10 preceding years as his predecessor's second in command, Jim effectively ensured that the whole district, from Canada to Chisago, and Wadena to Wisconsin, received its fair share of the types of responsible and needed project expenditures that his effective representation secured.
He left a huge legacy of thousands of improvements that surround us throughout the district and benefit us all.
Jim's whole lifespan was one of service to others. Jim was the epitome of public service, the very best to participate and represent us in government.
His public service had immeasurable impact in his beloved 8th District, but it didn't stop there. In time, he grew to expand his horizon (and expanse of effectiveness) and leave his imprint upon us locally, statewide and nationally, and, in many instances, internationally.
He became the go-to man nationally in all things transportation. He gained particular expertise in air traffic matters generally, and air traffic safety specifically. Later in his career, he had national influence in renewing interest in bicycling as great exercise and convenient means of environmentally friendly travel.
He spent his last few years mentoring, consulting and advising in a selfless manner since his unexpected return to private life.
He gained tutelage from his predecessor, and kept to the truth and practice that effective politics and resultant good government is the art of compromise. That meant both inter party compromise and inner party compromise, both of which are in very short supply these days.
Jim very much lived the good life. He grew up poor, but loved. He received a good education and made the most of it. He inherited and exhibited true wealth - wealth of knowledge, sense of achievement, secure belief and desire to make his world a better place for his family, constituents and those who would follow.
He was devout, open and confident in his faith. And he lived it.
Jim was blessed with a great level of intelligence and a driving work ethic. He put it all together in effective resolution of problems, erasure of inequities and enhancement of conditions for all - most particularly for those most in need.
Jim was first and always family first, with equal generational depth toward parents, his own marital, and maybe even a little extra for children and grandchildren. He was happily too busy for much in the way of hobbies and pleasure pastimes, always thriving under a tremendous but self-imposed workload.
Yet, he didn't miss morning Mass, always found time to keep in touch with friends and maintained a physically active lifestyle.
He was a lifelong student of all aspects of government, and a constant sponge for ever-building knowledge.
There will be three memorial services across the state this week. One will be at the Humphrey Institute, site of Jim's post-congressional teaching; one in Duluth, the population center of the district and location of his main Minnesota offices for all 36 years; and one at his beloved, lifelong hometown, at the Chisholm Catholic Church.
The services will overflow with caring people and deserved adulation.
Each service will hopefully cause pause to reflect on what is good about politics in America; and as reminder that we have had, and still have, good potential for good government throughout this land. May we reclaim it soon.
Jim Oberstar is and was a giant among men.