When Blaine High School’s career and college placement specialist Barb Rice asked students what they’d like to ask Gov. Mark Dayton, they never imagined they’d get to ask him those questions in person.
After signing in at the office – as all visitors must – Dayton placed a Bengal ball cap on his head, stuck a Bengal pin in his lapel and put on a Bengal jacket before taking the stage in the auditorium.
Student Council President Elizabeth Richards introduced the governor, saying that, as he is Minnesota’s 40th governor and Blaine High School is celebrating its 40th year, the two have much in common.
Dayton acknowledged that connection and then noted another: the high value both the governor and the Bengals place on education.
With a 98 percent graduation rate, BHS students are on their way to great things, Dayton said.
“The opportunity for people with degrees – high school, college, trade school – are virtually unlimited,” he said.
“Your income potential, your general satisfaction are much greater with a degree. Do your best here, go on to college and the world is open to you.”
Earlier Dayton had said that he was pre-med in college.
“But much to the relief of those in the medical community, I went on to do something else,” he said, chuckling.
Students then were given an opportunity to pose questions to the governor.
Responding to inquiries on everything from gay marriage to gun control, increasing the minimum wage to lowering the drinking age, fully funding all-day kindergarten, legalizing marijuana and more, Dayton gave thoughtful and straightforward answers.
Later he told the students, “I’m impressed with how well-attuned you are to the world around you. These are great questions and they give me great hope for the future of our state, our nation. Thank you.”
After his allotted time had ended, the governor stuck around a few minutes longer, chatting with staff and students, greeting custodians and secretaries before signing out.
And then, eager to greet his first grandchild – a baby boy born by scheduled C-section late Wednesday morning – Dayton climbed into his SUV and made his exit.
“We were just really happy to have him here,” Principal John Phelps said as the governor departed. “This is something these students will always remember. And something not many high school students can say they ever had the opportunity to do – to ask the governor direct questions about things that are on their minds. This was very valuable time.”
Sue Austreng is at firstname.lastname@example.org