Ambassador Brzezinski, Governor Dayton, Foreign Minister Bildt and Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski. Photo credit: Brzezinski Blog
This post was originally published by Swedish Ambassador Mark Brzezinski on Brzezinski Blog on June 17, 2013.
This week we had the privilege of welcoming Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and a trade delegation of Minnesota business, universities and scientific and medical institutions to Stockholm, Sweden. Among the fifty states, Minnesota boasts the highest number of Swedish Americans (almost 500,000). The family ties, business relationships, scientific and university exchanges, and cultural linkages between Minnesota and Sweden combine to create a strong and growing connection. The Governor’s visit gave us the chance to frame some of the key opportunities Minnesota and Sweden have to work together to advance common interests. The values shared between Sweden and Minnesota are so many: a commitment to cultivating the next generation through great education; the endless possibilities provided by scientific innovation, R&D and global commerce; a love for the great outdoors and a shared Northern topography; and even Ice Hockey – Governor Dayton is a former Division I Hockey player (a goalie), and Sweden just won the Ice Hockey World Championships!
The very first event we held for the Governor was a Diversity Dialogue with the Somali community in Sweden, and we had a mix of people around the table from a variety of fields. The U.S. Embassy has started a new initiative we call “Diversity Dialogues,” which are an opportunity for us to gather Americans and Swedes to discuss issues related to diversity in both our countries. Last October, when I travelled with the Swedish King and Queen to Minnesota, I broke off from the delegation to meet with representatives from the American Refugee Committee and the “I am a star” program – a Minnesota-based community project that highlights Somali-American contributions. This time the Somali community in Sweden, as well as NGO’s and government officials interested in their welfare, had the opportunity to hear from the Governor of the U.S. state with the most Somali-Americans and to hear about Minnesota’s experience with assimilation of the Somali community. The Governor’s incredibly thoughtful perspective on what has worked and what still needs work in Minnesota was really embraced by the participants in our Diversity Dialogue, and he was able to place his perspective in a context of Minnesota’s 150-year plus tradition of welcoming immigrants. The Diversity Dialogue was followed by a large reception, where many representatives of Swedish government, business, NGO’s, and academia met the Governor and the Minnesota delegation. We were deeply honored that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Frank Belfrage, and the next Swedish Ambassador to Washington Bjorn Lyrvall attended, demonstrating the significance they place on the Minnesota – Sweden relationship.
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a newly redesigned website.In our continuing effort to be in the forefront of providing the best service and care to our state’s Veterans, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a newly redesigned website. Nearly 370,000 Veterans call Minnesota home and they can now access information through this comprehensive and exciting new resource at MinnesotaVeteran.org.
Minnesota ranked number one for senior health and the Twin Cities ranked top for fit metro areas.
Photo Credit: Flickr user, Michael Hicks
Minnesotans have yet another thing to be proud of--their good health. Reports released last week named Minnesota the healthiest state in the nation for seniors, and Minneapolis-St. Paul the fittest metro area in the United States.The report, released by the United Health Foundation, ranks Minnesota the healthiest state in the nation for seniors. This ranking recognizes Minnesota’s longstanding commitment to health care services and long-term care for the state’s older citizens. Minnesota topped the list based on a variety of factors which lead to good health including prescription drug coverage, availability of home health care workers, and rate of annual dental visits. Minnesota also scored well with a high percentage of seniors reporting very good or excellent health, a low rate of premature death, and a low rate of hospitalizations for hip fractures.
The American College of Sports Medicine’s annual American Fitness Index ranked Minneapolis-St. Paul the fittest metro area in the country for the third time in a row. The ranking takes into account health factors including smoking, exercise, obesity rates, chronic health issues, and access to healthcare. It also considers environmental factors such as parks, trails, recreational facilities and farmers’ markets. The cities’ large per-capita investment in parks and high rate of physical activity were also factors in the first place ranking.
While these reports provide good news for the state, they also show that Minnesota still has room for improvement in the area of health. The United Health Foundation found that Minnesota has a low rate of seniors with a dedicated health care provider and low community support expenditures for low income seniors. The American College of Sports Medicine found that many Minneapolis-St. Paul residents should increase their fruit intake, to ensure that they are getting the five recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. More Twin Cities residents also need to quit smoking, according to the American College of Sports Medicine's findings.
These rankings are a promising illustration of Minnesota’s commitment to good health and fitness. With poor health at an all-time high nationwide, Minnesota is making strides in the right direction.
View the United Health Foundation report here.
View the American College of Sports Medicine's American Fitness Index here.
Governor Dayton is joined by legislators and constituents as he ceremoniously signs the omnibus higher-ed bill at the Minnesota State Capitol
Access to higher education is crucial to ensure that Minnesota has a competitive workforce that is prepared to fill the jobs of the future. That is why the budget enacted by Governor Dayton and the legislature makes a significant investment in college affordability and improving our state colleges and universities. By investing $250 million in higher education, with $46 million going to direct financial aid for students, the budget brings the dream of a higher education within reach for even more Minnesotans.
A $250 Million Investment in Higher Education
» The Largest Investment in Direct Financial Aid in a Generation. State financial assistance has not kept pace with rising tuition and the other increased costs of post-secondary education. That is why the budget enacted by Governor Dayton invests an additional $46 million in the State Grant program, which will provide more than 100,000 students with financial aid.
» Freezing Tuition for College Students. This budget freezes tuition at all MNSCU and University of Minnesota campuses starting for the 2014-2015 school year. This will continue to help put the dream of a college education within reach for Minnesota students.
Governor Dayton is joined by legislators and constituents in a mock signing for 'Ban the Box' legislation
As Gov. Mark Dayton ceremonially signed a bill expanding the "Ban the Box" law to private employers today, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights is providing a toolkit on the requirements of the new law, which goes into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
"This is a significant piece of legislation," said Commissioner of Human Rights Kevin Lindsey. "Ninety-two million Americans currently have either an arrest or a criminal conviction in their past. This law offers the vast majority of individuals with a non-violent criminal record a second chance at an opportunity for employment to better their lives.”
The new law requires private employers to wait until a job applicant has been selected for an interview, or a conditional offer of employment has been extended, before asking a job applicant about criminal records or conducting a criminal background check. This requirement has applied to public employers since 2009.
Existing laws will continue to protect vulnerable adults and children from people with violent or sexual criminal histories. Additionally, employers may exclude applicants if a crime is relevant to the position's job duties.