Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

October 21, 2019 GMT

St. Cloud Times, Oct. 19

Will Johnnie-Tommie rivalry end next year?

While it seems impossible to believe, there is a chance the tradition that is the NCAA Division III Johnnie-Tommie football rivalry will end just about a year from now.

Welcome to more potential collateral damage caused in part by big-time college athletics.

Never mind those 20,000 or so red- and purple-clad fans enjoying Saturday’s game at Allianz Field in St. Paul. Forget about 89 years of classic games, including a national-record crowd of 37,355 at the 2017 game at Target Field. And say goodbye to the small-college football match-up that got so big ESPN in 2015 broadcast its national “College GameDay” show from Collegeville.


All of that could end after next year’s game as St. Thomas University is forced out of the MIAC the end of the 2020-21 school year. Enough MIAC peers this year decided the Tommies’ athletic success in all sports (along with its big enrollment) as too overwhelming.

And while that decision creates a major challenge for this rivalry, it puts a huge opportunity in front of the St. Thomas football program. The Tommies are attempting to skip NCAA Division II (think St. Cloud State) and jump all the way to the NCAA Division I level — think big-time college athletics.

While continuing the Johnnies rivalry is possible and desired by both schools, that seems a tough punt with the Tommies pursuing an invitation from the Summit League, a Division I conference with nine Midwest schools. The league does not include a football conference, but several member schools have Division I programs, most notably North Dakota State University.

Division I programs — even those in the lesser-known Football Championship Subdivision — have operating costs of several million dollars. ESPN recently reported NDSU’s football costs were about $5.6 million a year. Citing federal data, it set St. Thomas expenses now at about $1.1 million.

Common sense dictates that if St. Thomas makes that jump, keeping a rivalry game with St. John’s could become a high price to pay — literally. Not to mention Division I vs. Division III match-ups on the field wouldn’t seem very appealing to either team.

So what are diehard Johnnie-Tommie football fans supposed to do?

Savor the moments like Saturday, embrace what might be a final clash next fall — and be thankful such a great rivalry existed for almost a century in a college-football world that seems to change — sometimes drastically — by the game.



Minneapolis Star Tribune, Oct. 18

Teens are struggling with mental health, suicide. We need to find out why.

Twin reports confirm the problem, highlight need for action, understanding.

“I’d like to get your take on this.” That respectful conversation starter with the adolescents and young adults in your family ought to be on your personal agenda soon after the release of two sets of data offering a frightening glimpse into young people’s escalating struggles with mental health.

The information came out this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Minnesota Departments of Education and Health. The releases don’t appear to have been coordinated. But combined, the findings offer federal- and state-level confirmation of an alarming public health concern.

The Minnesota information was gathered during a once-every-three-years survey of those attending middle school and high school. In 2019, 23% reported long-term mental health or emotional problems, a figure that rose 5 percentage points overall since the 2016 survey.

The survey also asked students about “suicide ideation” — meaning thoughts about taking their own lives at some point. The number of students experiencing this rose across grade levels since the 2013 survey. Six years ago, “20 percent of 11th-grade students reported seriously considering suicide at some point in their lives, compared to 24 percent of 11th-graders in 2019,” state officials reported Thursday.

Data from the CDC provided a grim complement to this data, showing that an increasing number of young people nationally are acting on suicidal thoughts. The federal agency released a research brief focusing on death rates due to suicide and homicide among people ages 10 to 24 for the years 2000 to 2017.

While the death rate from homicide, historically a leading cause of death for this age, has declined, the suicide death rate rose sharply over the past decade after a period of stability in this century’s first decade. In 2007, the suicide rate in this age group stood at 6.8 per 100,000. In 2017, that figure stood at 10.6 per 100,000. That’s a heartbreaking increase of 56%.

The total number of suicide deaths in this age group nationally: 6,769 nationally in 2017, up from 4,320 in 2007.

The reports have spurred understandable alarm in Minnesota and elsewhere. “In the past five to 10 years, we’ve seen significant increases in the national rates of youth with major depression episodes, the number of youths with suicidality-related emergency department visits, and most tragically, completed suicides,” said Ezra Golberstein, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. “We need to get an understanding of what is driving this so we can reverse this horrible trend.”

To their credit, lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz took steps during the last legislative session to increase grants for school-linked mental health services. There is also expanded training for teachers and other school staff to spot suicide warning signs in students. The state is fortunate to have leaders who put a priority on mental health and energetic advocacy organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But clearly, there is still much more work to be done.

Congress also needs to get involved. The CDC data raised understandable questions about the role that social media and technology may have. Better research is needed to understand this and the role that firearm access may play.

The questions need to go beyond policymakers, however. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and trusted family friends have an important role to play in understanding why adolescents and young adults are more frequently struggling with mental health. Older generations can’t diagnose or stem this alone. They need feedback from young people to guide them.

A good place to begin: starting a conversation with the young people in your life and sincerely seeking to understand.


The Free Press of Mankato, Oct. 20

Turkey: Trump’s mistake will cost lives, weaken U.S.

Why it matters: President Donald Trump is destroying American standing around the world.

The presidency of Donald Trump is becoming dangerous for Americans, deadly for our allies and surreal.

One can see this in the eyes of his Republican colleagues. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sees it. House Republican leaders know it.

They took remarkable action Wednesday when they voted overwhelmingly with Democrats to condemn Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Turkey and his leaving longtime U.S. allies the Kurds with a target on their back.

The House passed a resolution 354-60 that stated the withdrawal is “beneficial to the adversaries of the United States government,” including Syria, Russia and Iran and calls on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to immediately end its attack on Syria.

First District Rep. Jim Hagedorn, a Republican, voted in favor of the resolution. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-7th District, who represents Sibley County, did not vote.

The resolution also called for the White House to “present a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

McConnell started his weekly news conference expressing “gratitude to the Kurds,” and that he “was sorry that we are where we are.”

In a meeting with Democrats Wednesday, Trump had a “meltdown” according to those who were there. He excoriated Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling her names to the point the she and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer got up and left the room.

Trump went on to insult much respected Gen. Jim Mattis, his former defense secretary who resigned last year when Trump first tried to pull troops out of Syria. Trump said Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general.”

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien immediately flew to Turkey and negotiated a 5-day cease-fire that Turkey is calling a pause.

That Pence and Pompeo moved quickly suggested Trump realized his mistake or they gave him no choice given the House vote.

Trump’s action likely left U.S. soldiers in the region ashamed and demoralized. Russian and Syrian forces put up pictures of the deserted U.S. outpost that reportedly had food still on tables.

Republicans and Democrats have made clear that the withdrawal from Turkey not only gives our enemies the upper hand, and not only erodes the trust of the United States around the world, it likely will give ISIS another foothold to attack the American homeland.

In another remarkable event, longtime Trump supporter Sen. Lindsay Graham stood in front of the television cameras and told America the blood of American lives will be on Trump’s hands as ISIS gets a foothold again now that American troops are not there to deter them.

Trump’s disastrous decision-making may be making it clear to Republicans that they need to replace the president. We hope so. America cannot accept another decision that puts American security, American standing and Americans themselves at risk.