A unique and distinctive Democrat, a mindful
and dedicated public servant, and a friend from
long ago passed away recently. Former U.S.
Representative James Oberstar, from Minnesota,
left this world on May 3 at the age of 79.
The son of a miner in the Iron Range, the north-
eastern part of Minnesota, Oberstar attended the
University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul; my
alma mater as well. In fact, that is where we met,
on the occasion of his giving a speech there.
We got to chatting and discovered that we had
much in common politically despite our being
in opposing parties: pro-life, pro-preservation of
wilderness areas without making it difficult, if
not impossible, for people to access these areas
to enjoy camping, fishing, hunting, and snowmo-
biling, to name a few. And on topics where we
differed, the congressman was every bit as
courteous and cordial with me as when we were
in agreement on those topics where we had common
ground. We also were fellow Catholics, and the
desire to attend Saint Thomas which we both had
was based in part on the fact that we wanted to attend
a Catholic institution of higher learning.
After serving thirty-two years in the House of
Representatives, Oberstar lost in a stunning upset to
Tea Party-backed Republican Chip Craavak.
Oberstar represented Minnesota's Eighth
Congressional District, a district so overwhelmingly
Democratic that the few times when the
Republicans did bother to endorse and nominate
a candidate for any office in or from the district their
candidate was fortunate to receive 25% of the vote.
It was 2010, the year that the Tea Party came to the
forefront of the national political scene, and the
movement capitalized on the growing discontent with
President Obama's "Hope and Change", and many
Democrats, like Rep. Oberstar, felt the wrath of the
But James Oberstar had some stands on some key issues
which set him apart from, and above, Obama and those
Democrats who rushed to sweep the country away in the
zeitgeist of Obama was the driving force. Most of his
constituents, however, did not think it was sufficient to
keep him in Washington to continue to serve their
interests. Still, Oberstar respected their decision to
bring him home, as he always listened to them and
tried his very best to represent them and their wishes,
their hopes, and their desires, never forgetting that they
the people of his home district were the bosses of him,
not his being their boss. That is a quality that too many
representatives and senators from both parties lack these
days, to the detriment of the country.
Rest in peace, my old friend. It was a pleasure and a joy
to know you.