Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday morning spoke to the senior class at East Ridge High School, where he outlined the importance of community service and answered students’ questions about education and state politics.
Dayton talked about how his time volunteering gave him a broader life perspective and taught him “what help really means to people.” He called volunteering “leaving my cocoon” and spoke about his time as an orderly in a Minneapolis emergency room as a teenager.
“I’ve learned so much from what I’ve done, being involved with other people,” said Dayton, who also noted his time with Head Start programs and called Robert Kennedy his political hero.
While Dayton speech was primarily geared toward the value of community service, seniors in attendance at the Loft Stage Tuesday morning asked him about grants for college students and mandatory testing.
Dayton said today’s college students don’t get the same support they did years ago and required tests for students are “excessive … to the point of being absurd.” The governor—who opposed the federal No Child Left Behind legislation as a senator—said he wants to work with the state’s commissioner of education to find better ways to evaluate students outside “burdensome” tests.
Dayton also spoke about the federal budget deficit and how the Bush tax cuts, the recession and war in Iraq and Afghanistan took the nation away from the balanced budget of the Clinton Administration. Dayton said it may take additional taxes on the wealthy to solve the budget issues.
“I don’t raise anybody’s taxes lightly,” he said.
East Ridge Principal Aaron Harper said school officials considered bringing in Dayton after his inaugural speech touched on community service.
“One of the traditions we’re trying to set up is the commitment to giving back to the community for all that they have given you as a student,” Harper said.
East Ridge Assistant Principal Dennis Roos was the driving force behind getting Dayton to speak at the high school. Roos said he had met Dayton a few times when he was a senator.
“What the heck?” Roos said. “We’d give it a shot and see if it came to anything.”
Roos said East Ridge is looking to expand its school-organized volunteering. He pointed to the success of an end-of-year initiative at Woodbury High School and said he planned to model the ERHS program after its cross-town counterpart’s.
Dayton arrived at 9:45 a.m. and left about 45 minutes later. He was introduced by Dale Hoeffel and Megan Snyder, the ERHS student council president and vice president, respectively. The governor was also presented with a hockey-style East Ridge sweatshirt.
Hoeffel said the senior class is vocal about politics in general, and it was “cool” to have the governor speak to them. Snyder said she appreciated that Dayton took the time to discuss matters affecting students. Both agreed that East Ridge has a busy student body that tries to do its part in the community.
“We’re a really good-hearted group,” Hoeffel said.
During the question-and-answer portion of his visit, one student asked Dayton if he supports medical marijuana. He responded that he would under narrow circumstances but not to the degree of a state such as California.
Another student asked Dayton what his favorite color is. It’s purple.
For a photo gallery from the governor's visit, click here.