Don Fraser, 1924-2019 Print E-mail
Written by Jeremy Wieland   


A Farewell to Don Fraser



jeremy wieland 19Don Fraser has left us. There will be much said about Don Fraser. Iric Nathanson, Don's former Staffer, has been the most eloquent and educational. I'm neither. I know that Don was a hero. He was the fellow Marcy School kid made good. As a child in the 80's, Don was the Mayor who rode his bike to City Hall. He'd pause on a walk to fix a kid's bike chain. When he came to classes at South or Anderson to speak he was friendly and engaging. He'd ask us questions, and he'd call on kids of color and young women because he knew they had good questions and ideas. Don wanted everyone to know they were part of our community. He was the person that young people in public schools wanted to emulate.
don fraser in suitIn later life when I befriended Don and his wife Arvonne (another Hero) I struggled to be smart, sometimes even to talk. I was star struck. There was never a doubt in my mind that Martin Sheen based the character of Jeb Bartlett on Don Fraser. He must have because there wasn't any other model. Don was smart, quiet, listened to everything you said like you were the only person in the room, and he was funny. Really funny. Don may not have had the Nobel Prize like President Bartlett but that's because Don was so self-deprecating, not because he wasn't deserving. Don was a master of detail and policy and innovation. He learned and he taught and he experimented and wanted everyone else to learn. We meet at Stone Arch because Don and Arvonne wanted people to understand politics and the implications of policy. When Mayor Frey, our City Council, Park Commissioners and School Board Directors talk about housing stability and after school opportunities being critical to closing the achievement gap and creating opportunity, that's Don. That's the entire City of Minneapolis Government spinning into action because of concerns and ideas that Don had when I was too young to drive.
Don also connected people. I didn't know Arvonne when I was young. Only as an adult did I come to know Arvonne and say things like "I hope I can grow up to be like Arvonne." Don introduced me to other women I admire. Smart, articulate firebrands Arvonne, Barb Allivato and Vici Oshiro and Linda Higgens all inspire me and I'd never have met any of them if not for Don Fraser. Just like he did when I was a kid in school and he was calling on kids who didn't raise their hands; everyone contributes, and everyone has good ideas. That's Don. Everyone is important, everyone belongs and everyone can succeed.  
And now we have to do that without Don. Thankfully he was a model for succeeding with each other.


Jeremy Wieland, President








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Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

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YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016


In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

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