When I heard the name of the latest presidential candidate for 2020, a faint ring of familiarity tolled in the back of my mind. Then I remembered: I wrote an article about her unusual and delightful story of bipartisanship in August 2017. Here it is.
After 50 years, no one believed it would ever happen. That’s why they called it the bridge that was going nowhere.
But now that’s all water under the… well, you know. The new St. Croix Crossing Bridge opened last week to great fanfare, connecting eastern Minnesota with western Wisconsin and replacing the Stillwater lift bridge that was built in 1931.
Which just goes to show that two sides are never so far apart that they can’t be brought together.
The project was first proposed way back in the 1960s, but every imaginable obstacle conspired to prevent its construction. Needless to say, funding was the first challenge. Then came the predictable squabbling among federal and local agencies. Finally, the inevitable lawsuits brought by the environmental lobby threatened to kill the plan before it could begin.
People said it would take a miracle for the bridge to get built. What they got was something even more remarkable than divine intervention.
They got cooperation.
In 2012, an unlikely alliance formed between two Minnesota congresswomen, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and then-Republican Representative Michele Bachmann.
Their task was herculean. They had to persuade, convince, and cajole U. S. representatives and senators, as well as state governors and local legislators, to sign off on the project. Incredibly, they had to get unanimous approval from all 100 U. S. senators to gain an exemption from the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Ms. Klobuchar personally prevailed upon every one of her colleagues in the senate to give their support.
The final product is more than just a river crossing. It’s a work of art, a thing of beauty. The bridge is a hybrid, a cross between box girder and cable-stayed designs, only the second like it in the country. The innovative design minimizes the number of piers in the water while keeping the tops of the towers below the tree-line. Even opponents of the bridge grudgingly conceded that their fears were unfounded.
Could there be a more fitting allegory for our troubled times than the new “miracle bridge” of St. Croix? In a time of knee-jerk partisanship, of hyperbolic rhetoric, of militant groupthink that drives all proponents of moderation to the far extremes lest they be slaughtered on the altar of ideology by their own comrades – in times like these it is the concerted effort to bridge the divide that can calm the waters below. All that’s needed is the courage set aside personal agendas and the willingness to work together for the general welfare.
Nothing puts an end to quarreling faster than a spirit of common purpose. Nothing builds trust more certainly than a shared commitment and collaboration toward a universal goal. The feeling of being united in a higher mission, combined with a sense of urgency to achieve results, raises the rewards of success above egoism and ideology.
Once we resolve to make the effort and take the first step, almost anything is possible.
King Solomon says, Like water reflects one face to another, so too the heart of one man to his fellow. By showing our adversaries that we are committed to peaceful cooperation, the chances increase dramatically that they will see themselves reflected in our sincere intentions and respond in kind.
Of course, there will always be those too petty to seek common ground. But strong, sure leadership will relegate them to the footnotes of history while inspiring others to discover greatness within themselves. With vision and determination, we can refashion the world into a place where human spirit can overcome any obstacle and truly soar toward the heavens.
Photo Credit: Tony Webster via Creative Commons