DULUTH – With Lake Superior roiling behind him, Gov. Tim Walz returned to his role as a history teacher Thursday in an appeal for civility and peace in the aftermath of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
"It's been difficult, but once again the choice is for us to make the choices that previous generations made, to figure out a way to get together and solve the problem and move forward," Walz said. "This is the hardest thing to do."
Walz's visit to Duluth concluded a multicity tour of some of the state's historic monuments this week in response to the violence at the Capitol, underscoring the fragile state of the country's institutions and politics.
"If we don't do this right, things will continue to get worse," he said. "I don't think we should just assume."
The governor highlighted the war memorials along the Lakewalk as evidence that the volunteers who installed them "knew we would stand at a time in 2021 with our nation kind of on the brink again, and there might be a need to tell that story," he said in front of the USS Duluth anchor.
Dan Streu, who served aboard the USS Duluth in Vietnam, spoke about his experience the day the ship earned its Combat Action Ribbon and the efforts to have the ship, which served from 1965 to 2005, memorialized in its namesake city.
Walz, who served 24 years in the Army National Guard, said the Vietnam era was a "very divisive time in the country," but America endured.
"We've done it, and we can do it again," he said.
Duluth City Council President Renee Van Nett said it will take support for families and community-building to bridge the divide.
"The things that happened on Jan. 6 — that's my birthday — I will never forget it," she said. "I come from a place where resiliency is the backbone of who we are. ... I know for a fact that this will pass as well, and we will do that through recovery."
The governor previously spoke at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul on Tuesday and at the Wasioja Historic District on Wednesday in an attempt to resurrect lessons from past divisions in the country.
The first step to healing in this case, Walz said, is moving on from the results of November's election.
"What happened here was a fair and free election where more voters voted for one person over the other," Walz said. "That's not the end of the world, that's America."
Asked how impeachment plays a role in the country's healing, Walz said "there has to be accountability."
"I understand people say 'Well, you're gonna make it worse.' Worse than pulling down the flag at the United States Capitol and replacing it with one with someone's name on it? Worse than the killing of a Capitol Police officer?" he said and later added: "If anybody is feeling joy or vengeance in this, that's going to lead to a very bad place. There is no joy in seeing an American president impeached."
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496