Peace, conservation, compassion: Minnesotans share their hopes for the future

Side by side portraits of 5 people.
(From left) Minnesotans Barb Peterson, Barbara Wendt, Courtney Armborst, Jill Morberg and Paulo Mora shared what they're hopeful for looking toward the future.
Photos by Christine T. Nguyen, Derek Montgomery and Gage Cureton for MPR News

As we near Election Day, we’re looking for Minnesotans to share their perspectives, not just when it comes to politics, but in what they want to see change in their day-to-day lives.

We asked people around the state: “What are your hopes for your life in Minnesota over the next 5-10 years and why are these hopes important to you?”

We wanted to get at the heart of the issues impacting different people, and find where there is common ground. Here’s what a few Minnesotans had to share.

Courtney Armborst: ‘Love trumps all’

Courtney Armborst, 26, grew up in St. Paul and currently lives in Bloomington. “I wouldn't consider myself an organizer or an activist, but I definitely say that I am boots on the ground,” said Armborst, who had not actively protested before the killing of George Floyd. “I am here and ready to do the work in any way I can.”

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A transcript of the video:

“When I first showed up to 38th and Chicago, the next day that George Floyd died, people were swarming that corner. And we did a march and things got really crazy that night. Well the next day I remember going to 38th and Chicago and the community love was one of no other. Water stacked as tall as the buildings for free. Free food  everywhere. Handing out clothes. Handing out everything. And it was like a sanctuary. It was like a place of peace. And when I see the hopes for Minnesota and how we should look moving forward, it's so much community love and it's helping each other.

I am one who talks to my plants. I find the beauty in people, in things, in all of it. So with my big heart, I couldn't even watch the video of George Floyd. I can barely watch the videos that are still happening now. Because I can feel how that could be my loved one. And I refuse to sit by and watch this keep happening to families because at any point in time it could be my best friend. It could be my brother. It could be my dad. It doesn't have to be a stranger. 

I think that big changes are gonna to come after we get some small changes moving. We're looking for defunding the police or finding ways that we can start other organizations so that police don't have to show up to mental health calls. We're looking for things like getting SROs out of the schools. 

Now is the time that we come together as people. We all have one thing in common. For sure one thing in common. We are all human beings. And we need to start treating each other like that's my brother. That's my sister. If we start going into every situation with a little bit more love, love trumps all.”

Barb Peterson: Use kindness, be practical

Barb Petersen, 52, is a closer in the abstracting department at a title company. She grew up in Little Canada and now lives in Roseville. “I think training obviously is good for police reform, but again we need society reform.”

A transcript of the video:

“My hopes for Minnesota would be that we can get back to some sense of normal. Meaning I hope that we can get some politicians or leaders in the community, both local and on national level, that will actually enforce rules and laws that are in place. I think people in a position of authority should have some modicum of respect given to them if they earn it. So, teachers and firemen and nurses should all be appreciated for their talents and the time that they give. Law enforcement and military. Now, you can't turn on a TV without watching bashing of the police [and] the military. I think these guys work. They put their lives on the line every day. You know, people typically want to help. They want to work with people and help people. 

Now I have family that are police officers, in the military. So we hear stories about what they go through every day, and I think they don't get nearly the respect they deserve. You know, they're talking about eliminating, defunding the police. They should get raises. They shouldn't get defunded. These cops put up with so much every day and they're disrespected. 

So what happened to George Floyd was disgusting. There's no disputing that. You can't hold the entire police department accountable for the actions of one or two. You can't paint everyone with the same brush stroke. No matter if it's color, race, sex, sexual preference. I don't care what it is. So police officers do need training, but to defund them or reduce funding doesn't allow for training. It means you're not having a police force. You need a police presence to eliminate criminal activity or at least reduce criminal activity just by the presence of the police officers.

I think we do need law and order and I think we do need respect. I think it all boils down to people need to respect, show a little respect for their fellow neighbor, including officers, firemen, everybody. I think training obviously is good for police reform, but again we need society reform. We need people to use common sense, use kindness, but be practical at the same time. So that's what I want to see Minnesota get back to: Minnesota Nice. That's what I want.”

Jill Morberg: Leave environment ‘in better shape than we found it’

Jill Morberg lives in Two Harbors, Minn. She works as a business manager and is an avid runner and outdoors person. “There's a lot of things that people can do [to protect the environment] that don't cost dollars. It just costs time.”

A transcript of the video:

“My hopes for Minnesota would be that we can take better care of our environment. I think, especially now with COVID, we're seeing lots of areas getting used and overused in some outdoor rec areas, especially up here in northeast Minnesota. And I'd really like to see us focus some attention there. 

I have children. I have twins that are 13, and a 16-year-old son, and I really want to have a place for them to come out and enjoy in the future. Not just for my kids, for the next generation. 

You know, it's kind of our responsibility to be stewards of the environment and take better care of it and leave it — try to leave it — in better shape than we found it. And it feels like with a lot of our extra traffic that we have, some global warming. And these huge weather events we've had, we've had extra erosion, losing lots of environment in these big weather events to hard water runoff, higher water levels. And that combined with human traffic, foot traffic and car traffic is creating an issue that we really need to deal with now. 

I think probably the most important thing for getting recommitted to the environment is putting more dollars back into state parks, trail systems, DNR, other organizations that work at conserving the environment. So I think there's a lot of things that we can do that don't involve PACs dollars. There's a lot of things that people can do that don't cost dollars. It just cost time.”

Paulo Mora: Continue the American dream

This video is a still image with recorded audio.

Paulo Mora, 38, lives in Bloomington, Minn., with his wife and 5-year-old son. He has lived in Minnesota for 15 years and works in the hospitality industry. Mora immigrated from Ecuador when he was 17 years old. He became a U.S. citizen this summer because he felt an urgency to vote in the presidential election. 

A transcript of the video:

“Since I moved here to Minnesota, the American dream came true for me. I love the opportunities that the state gave me, and my hopes are just to maintain the style of living that I have obtained. For me when I immigrated from my country, I ran away from poverty. My dad was an alcoholic. I didn't see no future for me. So when I moved to the States, I saw an opportunity to make a living. To be able to start a family. To be able to provide for your family and to provide, you know, those little things that you may not have in your own country. To me, that's very simple. That's my American dream. 

A lot of people told  me, 'Hey, you know in Minnesota you can find lots of opportunities, and then you can make a lot more than what you're making.' And, you know, I took the chance and I moved here and from then I started a career in the hospitality industry. And it's been very good to me. Starting from the very bottom and then from there to continue to move up in my career to me has been very rewarding, and I feel blessed. I love Minnesota. I don't want to go anywhere else in the world or in the States. I want Minnesota to be the same well-paid and affordable state that's always been, in my opinion, you know. And then I've talked to a lot of people and jokingly we'll say, 'You know, the only reason we stick in this cold is because of how well we get paid.' 

Obviously, you know, I've always wanted to become a citizen for the reason that I love this country. It gave me the opportunities that in my own country didn't give me. Even though I wasn't born here, I feel part of this country. I felt a sense of urgency to vote. I want to have a decision on this election for what is going on in the country. You know, I am deeply saddened and heartbroken to see what's going on in this country right now because I came running away from a country with the same issues. And I would hate to see this beautiful country turned into what I came running from. For me it was hard, heartbreaking, and sad to leave my family, to leave my culture, to leave everything that I had to look for something better. And I came and found it and to see that to be at risk, to be destroyed. I think everybody should really think [about] and support the person who's going to not make our lives better instantly, but at least is gonna allow us to continue to dream, to have a better future. All I see and all I want is just the opportunity for us to continue to grow. To me that's the American dream.”

Barbara Wendt: Uniting to improve mental health services

Barbara Wendt is a high school science teacher in Worthington, Minn. She is a mother of a 6-year-old and her husband is a pastor. “Maybe these are some issues that people can agree on, no matter who you're voting for president.”

Transcript of the video:

“Some things that I think that if we do some investing in mental health that might help the state long term. I think one thing we could do to help move this along, maybe a first step that the Legislature or the powers-that-be could work on would be to have some money either in forgivable loans or grants to entice more people to go into counseling and psychiatry, to get more degree seekers and job seekers in the workforce. 

One of the arguments that I've heard people say about closing schools during the pandemic was the we need the students in school for their mental health. And if we truly believe that statement, then we need to fully fund schools to have mental health counselors, and nurses and school social workers and psychiatrists to take care of those students. If people truly believe that students need to be in school for their mental health, we need to have those resources in every building. And the state of Minnesota is at the bottom for our ratio of counselors to students. So there has been some improvement made in the last couple years, but we have a long way to go for that. 

So maybe these are some issues that people can agree on, no matter who you're voting for president, that this would help many areas of the state. And maybe it's a place where both sides can kind of start and work on something together to make this sort of better for the next 10 years.”

What perspectives are we missing? Share your own with us here.