President Trump, Come to Willmar

This Minnesota town is a modern, successful American melting pot.

Comments: 221

  1. Let the author move to Minnesota; I doubt he does.

  2. Did you miss the beginning of the story where Tom said he had visited relatives there for many, many years?! I’d be happy to move to such an inclusive place, but I’m old, and Minnesota is cold!

  3. @Jan - Tom's work has had him living in NY and other locations for years. He truly covers the world in what he does, and so goes the geography of where to live. Yet he remains a proud Minnesotan, born and raised in St. Louis Park.

  4. I live in Minnesota and I’m proud to live here. What’s your beef with my state? A moderate to liberal state that welcomes refugees and immigrants, had a balanced budget, and emphasizes education, the environment, and care for the elderly and those in need.

  5. The prime topic aside, “the frozen chosen” is a wonderful example if self-effacing humor.

  6. @Tomi Antonio Love it! One of my best friends is a Jewish woman from LA whose grandparents, farmers in North Dakota, were also members of the frozen chosen.

  7. This just means that interior US towns are becoming the same jumble of nations, races and languages as the NE area I was born into. That was before TV; the English was much worse. I wonder how good the salaries are, though. I wonder how well this will hold up if the economy crashes.

  8. @Liz The economy did crash. We were relatively better off than most of the country.

  9. Keep buying turkey from the state of Minnesota!

  10. We need more stories like these. People within their communities making a difference by building community on so many different fronts. Immigration has always been our strength as a nation, thank you for pointing out this, ‘work in progress’, success story.

  11. A recent article about immigrants’ impact on upstate NY was similar. They were a badly-needed infusion of life in a stagnant area, they were law-abiding, good citizens, and they were determined to succeed. It is also encouraging to read about the diversity of students in Willmar’s school system. Getting to know and connect with people of pluralistic backgrounds early in life takes away the fear and ignorance which drive so much prejudice. That is indeed a superior education.

  12. @NM I’m betting that this early exposure to other cultures will be an asset for those students going forward... as businessmen/women, diplomats, anything.

  13. As usual you miss the most important fact. Given the changes that this “diversity” has brought what is the unifying factor that makes us all Americans? Our motto is not E Pluribus Division, but E Pluribus Unum. Diversity is advantageous if there is First a unity of principles and beliefs.

  14. @Matthew How is there no "unity of principles" at work here? If these immigrants came to MN for rule of law, economic opportunity and a good place to raise their families, isn't that a unity of principles and beliefs?

  15. @Matthew Ummm.... The "unifying factor" that makes us "all" "Americans" is that almost all of us (except for Native Americans) originally came here from somewhere else. And you're absolutely wrong to argue that the Founders of this country had a "unity of principles and beliefs," or that they ever thought our country needed such. They were a mix of Protestants, Catholics, Quakers, Deists, and Humanists. Some found slavery acceptable; others were Abolitionists. They argued over power of the states versus the federal government. Etc., etc. Perhaps YOU wish that our country had some mystical "unity of principles and beliefs"; but that's just a fictitious notion. (And besides, you probably wouldn't accept the principles and beliefs that many of us hold in our hearts, so be careful what you wish for.)

  16. @Mindy As another poster said democracy is a bumpy road. ...And we have yet to work through the many issues that linger from slavery; the imperfect acceptance of women's rights both economic and social and the list could continue. Adding so many immigrants of so many different cultures just complicates our ability to find common ground to fix problems that have been festering for decades. So many voices and we have so much babel that we can barely hear anything anymore. Perhaps an example of what I mean is "We didn't HEAR the Trump voters!"

  17. Good column! It's nice to hear that at least one American community. by thinking progressively, has made diversity a great success story.

  18. Willmar is far from progressive. I spent 16 years of my life there. It went for Trump last election. what this article shows is that despite being a fairly conservative area they have been able to prosper through inclusion.

  19. "...every town in America needs to get caught trying to make diversity work...or it will whither." Whither? Small towns all over America have suffered from Walmart-ization, good jobs going to countries with cheaper labor rates and minimal/no environmental standards, interstates being built elsewhere, and many other factors. And they've surely withered as a result. We need our federal government to step up to the challenge, not just small towns. Where is our FDR?

  20. @Ellen Our FDR was obstructed at every turn by mcturtle and his republican party for 8 years. Because We the People couldn't get out and vote for a Democratic Congress. If anyone deserves an extended term because of obstruction it is not t rump; it is Obama.

  21. Thomas, a pleasure to read an article about some aspect of America that is life affirming. Those are sadly in such short supply. Thank you for this, all you do as a journalist and as a most thoughtful public voice. Allen Sabinson, Philadelphia

  22. @Allen. Agreed. The perfect tonic for today.

  23. @Allen Nonsense. Thomas loves and extols the virtues of his color aka race ethnic sectarian tribe above and beyond all others. Go to Mankato Minnesota where 38 brave honorable patriotic brown Native Dakota freedom fighters were hung on December 26, 1862 by order of the Great Emancipator and fighter in the Black Hawk War aka President Abraham Lincoln. The Dakota had rebelled against being lied to stolen from and mistreated by white Judeo-Christian European American Minnesotans. It was and still is the biggest mass execution in American history. By every positive civil secular socioeconomic political educational and health metric the Dakota are living in the Third World in the richest most powerful nation on Earth.

  24. This made me smile. Thanks Tom!

  25. I'd be curious to know if the bifurcation between successful small communities like Willmar and those mired in addiction and despair is precisely the percentage of immigrants that comprise the population? Maybe being surrounded by people not like yourself is the jolt that is needed for revival. Big cities tend to be more liberal because you're constantly jostling up against strangers. Eventually, the fear - and even the mystique fade. I'd also be interested in knowing what idea of "America" these new immigrants have formulated, aside from a place where you can make good money. They don't teach civics anymore, so much of one's concept of government just arrives by osmosis from your community. Pluralism and Liberalism are by no means identical. The Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires were polyglot quilts but no one would argue they were democratic.

  26. As if a visit anywhere showcasing diversity would change the opinion of our would-be dictator. Still thinking he can grow into the job? He's beyond redemption. He answers only to his base, and his base not hates the melting pot and anyone who can speak another language. Forget about Trump. Forget about GOP moderates. The key to extricating ourselves from this nightmare is in the ground game Democrats are building to keep the House and take the Senate. Only when Congress is securely in Democratic hands will we reclaim what's left of the American idea.

  27. @AlNewman Agreed - I'm sure Mr. Friedman has good intentions with his occasional articles imploring Trump to do the ethical/moral/conscientious thing. But they are a complete waste of time. Trump has demonstrated time and again that he has no conscience, a tiny heart, and very little brains.

  28. @AlNewman "Only when Congress is securely in Democratic hands will we reclaim what's left of the American idea". And to do that the Democrats are going to have to address the concerns of those people who rightly feel displaced. I remember very well when so many factories were moving to Asian countries for cheap labor and our leaders said with cavalier knowing, "we're going to retrain you". "Here's a little bit for you to go take a few classes to become a service worker", they said as they cast the pennies at their feet with no real programs to try to make that succeed. That didn't work out very well but as long as the GDP kept growing along with profit margins, then the picture they painted was rosy - just not for those caught in the backdraft. The policies put in place that allowed these companies to move their factories had a devastating effect on millions of workers and their families. When Senator Warren speaks to policies with negative affects on the middle class, this is a big one. So, I hope the Democrats succeed but, to do so, they need to tell these people WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU.

  29. @Blanche White I could not agree with you more!

  30. It's very interesting (and enlightening) to compare what insights Mr. Friedman has learned in his travels around the country versus the ones that David Brooks has learned in his travels. Both espouse stories of hope and success built from the ground upwards, rooted in communities in which people work together for the common good. But for some reason, Friedman's depiction feels more genuine, more grounded, more real. He describes the good work that good people have been doing not as if it's some aberration or a new revelation, but as a positive step in the bumpy work in progress. Conversely, Brooks's homilies feel disingenuous and preachy, and sometimes downright condescending. He tells us what we all "should" be doing, with an added dose of "why" we should do it. Most annoyingly, he describes it as if he's discovered some epiphany of virtue, when in fact, he's merely just opening his eyes to the good work that good people (on the Left) have been doing all along (but he's missed because of his partisan blindness). Thank you, Mr. Friedman, for giving us a sincere and grounded antidote to the faux revelations that Brooks dishes out on these pages.

  31. @Paul-A Brooks, according to credible media reports, seems to be going through, or has gone through, some kind of mid-life crisis. He dumped his wife, found a newer, younger woman and (more or less) adopted his new partner's Christian faith ... having jettisoned the semi-secular Judaism of his previous life. From his new perch, he does, indeed, seem to be more interested in preaching and judging — sometimes subtly, sometimes not so — than in exploring and explaining the world to his readers.

  32. @Paul-A Yes, a lovely account that reminds me why i love the Upper Midwest. Hope!

  33. I grew up in all white northern New Hampshire, but I ended up going to college in Washington DE -- a Black majority city. It was a culture shock, but eventually I ended up spending a Thanksgiving meal with a Haitian family, and later my class mate traveled north to see snow and experience his first skiing. So, what I learned was the skin color did not matter. What was important was a person's character.

  34. @John Galuszka I agree that character is very important but how that character is influenced by their religion is an element that cannot be ignored. In a democracy, anyone who practices a religion that seeks to disempower anyone does not belong in a free country.

  35. @Blanche White I am not convinced that the religion a person claims or even believes that they follow is any guarantee of compatibility with Democracy, especially with one that emphasizes the rights of individuals. We must be vigilant against the imposition of any religion, especially with the news this evening.

  36. @Blanche White If you are talking about Islam, I will advice you to do more reading. I'm Somali, Muslim, Black and Refugee/Immigrant I came to Minnesota 18yrs ago at the age of 20, left my siblings and parent in Somalia. I worked hard everyday learned english, got my college degree, supported my family back home, got married, raising my two boys, made close friends from every religion and race, no criminal record, I don't even remember the last time I got a traffic ticket,volunteered, started my small business after working for one organization for 10 years, pay my taxes, pray 5 times a day and never never disempowered anyone from their rights. true is a free country otherwise I haven't accomplished any of this. Gob bless America.

  37. Not to throw a damper on such a feel good situation, but I do think its instructive to point out that likely a lot Willmar's ability to handle the number of immigrants it does comes from the fact that there are plentiful jobs in the nearby area. In other words, it all starts from the local economy. In places where there are not such opportunities for employment, the local long-time populace is not as likely to look upon new residents with as much equanimity, no matter how much local leadership tries to smooth the transition. In such places, they are likely looked on more as competition than as rejuvenation.

  38. @Glenn Ribotsky - Did you read the entire article? Perhaps you missed the paragraph that begins with "Inclusion happens a lot faster, though,..." as well as the one after it that begins: "While lots of Minnesota towns have demand for labor, not every one has leaders to drive change, or residents ready to go along. There is plenty of resistance in plenty of towns."

  39. @Glenn Ribotsky That is why it is imperative our government agencies of refugee relocation place people appropriately.

  40. An insightful and carefully considered article, but one that fails completely to understand the angst that drove far too many Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Anecdotal analysis notwithstanding, Mr. Friedman is more or less parroting the bi-coastal, utopian vision of how life should more closely reflect an episode of Star Trek. My hometown is in flyover country and while there will always be elements of racism and fear about new arrivals and immigrants, the primary driver of angst is the complete lack of an economic future for a huge portion of what was the middle class. Diversity is a plus for all societies and I'm certainly not arguing against that, I'm arguing that you're missing the point. Diversity doesn't increase wages, make rent cheaper or healthcare more affordable. Outside of a few niche career areas, wages for most Americans have not increased (in inflation-adjusted dollars) since the early 1980s. This is what I feel is driving more Americans to express racist attitudes and beliefs, and vote for our current reprobate president.....and why they may vote for him again. It's simple frustration at the reality of life in most of America; poor wages, zero job protection and astronomical healthcare costs.

  41. @KCF You make some valid points, but how do we educate these people to stop voting against their own interests? Trump most certainly has not improved the lot of middle and working-class Americans in fly-over country (or anywhere else in the country, for that matter) and healthcare costs are spiraling out of control, yet these same people would rather pay outrageous prices via their checkbooks for healthcare rather than an increase in taxes, to cover Medicare for all, because #Socialism-and yet they will gladly take bailouts from the Federal Government to help their failing farms with the Chinese Tariffs (also #Socialism)....which has happened BECAUSE of their Dear Leader.

  42. @KCF An excellent post that gets well beyond the thin veneer Mr. Friedman paints. Thank you.

  43. @KCF I fear you are scapegoating the wrong people. The people who deserve your ire are our elected representatives. They have been pandering to the big money interests and private contractors for campaign donations and cushy jobs if they should bet defeated. We have no business blaming immigrants for our economic woes. We have only ourselves to blame for not voting in the people that will help everyone and not just the rich.

  44. Do you honestly believe that a visit to a town like this would somehow enlighten Trump? You won't see stories like this on Fox News, or Hannity or Tucker or any where that Trump's base lurks. Elizabeth Warren was correct when she said these outlets were "hate for profit" vehicles. Some people, sadly, prefer to hatred, anger and meanness over human decency.

  45. @Steve Tunley I agree with you about most of the crew at Fox, but Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith are very good at what they do. I love Elizabeth Warren, but there are some people who are independents that watch some aspects of Fox news, and she might be missing a chance to catch the eyes of these potential supporters.

  46. I noted one little nugget in Tom's column, that Mayor Calvin "leans conservative". It's good to know of a conservative that we liberal/progressive Democrats could make common cause with. Heaven knows, such people don't exist in DC. The mayor's credo is totally foreign to the extremists that have taken over not only the national GOP, but all except a small rump of the conservative movement at large. It's also good to know of least one community in the northern tier of so-called flyover country that does not try to solve its problems by adopting solutions inspired by the current White House and the Old Confederacy. 22:10 EDT, 5/14

  47. Ethiopia, Congo, Russia, France, China, South Korea, Columbia, Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Libya. Tom, it's everywhere, this melting pot of ours. The above countries are represented in the condominium I reside at in Atlanta. Our Country was designed by our forefathers to be the melting pot of humanity for the world, and it is working well.

  48. You could be describing Panama City; except we actually have one of the seven Bahai temples of the world and a whole lot more people and skyscrapers than your town in Minnesota. But we ousted Trump from his hotel here and the only people who want him back are older retired US citizens; not all of them but a healthy majority of them. The US will never make progress as long as Trump is in the WH. I do not understand why you and the editorial board constantly make rhetorical appeals to him. It gives people the impression that he actually might change. Fake news!

  49. While I don't doubt for a moment that Friedman has the best of intentions, I think having such a carefree view of diversity is actually dangerous. Diversity without any sense of unity is a recipe for war. For any country to survive in the long run, there has to be some sense of connection that binds people together. If people have no sense of connection to each other, they will form groups and start killing each other. Human nature is what it is whether we like it or not. For an example of what this looks like, look at the Middle East or the Balkans. Race and religion are two lightning rods that often drive people to war. (Yes, this is true even when there aren't any white Christian men around.) Placing large amounts of immigrants with different races, religions, and languages in the same area without allowing any time for assimilation is dangerously naive. I wish this wasn't so, but it is.

  50. @John Chenango Thank you for a little clarity on this otherwise feel good article.

  51. @John Chenango - Did we read the same article! Like one or two other commenters here I was left with the sense that Friedman had the enthusiasm factor wound up a bit too high. But I still applaud it for great writing and insights and a positive message. To your point, Friedman was abundantly clear about the needs and the efforts to address assimilation. Guess you didn't see that!

  52. @John Chenango Thanks for that reality check, the more useful because coming from a well-wisher like myself. Two other things trouble me. One Friedman himself alludes to. He quotes the school principal’s observation that “the only shared experience we have any longer in America is through public education.” The other is the seldom-asked question: what does America’s acquiring talent, ambition, healthy youth, etc. do to the countries it acquires those things from? Is there absolutely no “zero-sum game” about this form of exploitation?

  53. It's admirable that you're a progressive individual with liberal views, but pushing your views on other people vis-a-vis aggressive diversity is a mistake. You may well feel comfortable around random people who have nothing in common you genetically or socially, but not everyone does. Other people are more anxious or uncomfortable around random people and you have to respect that. I've lived in a highly diverse neighborhood for more than a decade, and that experience has made me more lonely, angry, and miserable than I was before -- there's less trust, social cohesion, and comfort in communities like that.

  54. @Eugene The thing that I find so remarkable about this town is that I DO feel like I have a lot in common with my Somali neighbors... I'm an introvert with lots of social anxiety... I HATE being around random people with whom I have nothing in common. But I simply don't feel that here! There are some wonderful stories about this community that say so very much about our connections. Several years ago, two Somali boys drowned in a local lake. Many of us felt that they were "our kids." The non-Muslim community organized a walk from a local church to the place where the boys were found. We started water safety awareness classes for all of our children, free of charge, and stepped up efforts to make sure all of our kids learn to swim. I have never felt more "at home" in a place or so connected to the people. I don't know how that happened... but it just is. I have lived in other communities with large Somali populations (after all... there are more Somalis living in Minnesota than any other state), but living here made me realize how much we have in common.

  55. @Eugene Excellent points.

  56. We need to read more stories like this one. Maybe, over time, "White Cloud," "Whitaho," and "Whitemont" will begin to see others as real people with the same struggles, economically and socially, that the olde white guard must overcome. "We Shall Overcome" "All Are Welcome in This Place"

  57. This soothes my heart. In fifty or one hundred years, this will be most of the USA. It’s our only choice, if we continue the grand experiment. Otherwise, let’s just split, right now. The New Trump Confederacy, and a separate Country. A country that is ready to survive, even thrive, in the 21st Century, not one that is devolving back to the 19th. Really excellent piece. Congratulations.

  58. Sadly, even if Trump were to visit this town, his stance would not be softened. He would never see, for instance, the covered woman pictured here as better than undesirable, and he would probably say something like that they’re all infiltrators scheming to impose Islamic law on us. Logic won’t work on someone determined to stick with his fear-mongering.

  59. Compare this article to the one by David Brooks this week. Republican/Conservative thinking cannot sustain a vibrant, diverse country like ours. Nice job Mr. Friedman!

  60. @Susan T Brooks's column was inconsistent with this one in what way? Support your position, don't lob unfounded bombs.

  61. In Saratoga Springs, NY the city's population doubles during tourist season. Immigrant labor is badly needed during this time to support the huge influx of people. But thanks to multiple purges by ICE, many year-round immigrant workers are already gone and as the city ramps up for the huge influx in population, there are no workers to be found. Big restaurants have already closed down... gone out of business due to lack of cooks and waiters who will work at lower wages. Help Wanted signs are posted everywhere now, and yet the tourist season hasn't even arrived yet. I've never seen this here before. Huge apple farms will be needing crop workers -- they will not be coming in the numbers needed. The historic race course (at 160 years old, it's the oldest sporting venue anywhere in America) needs hundreds of workers for about 2 to 3 months of the year, the restaurants (more per capita that anywhere in America) needs chefs, cooks and waiters, the hotels become desperate for more workers. Where are they going to come from? As with everything the Illegitimate One touches, what was once beautiful and flourishing turns to ruin and failure. And as I see it happening right here in Saratoga Springs, so too, I fear it's happening all across America. This nation is in big, big trouble until we get the dangerous thug out of the White House!

  62. @NY Times Fan, While I share your politics and passion for getting you-know-who out of the WH, I do have questions on your situation there in SS, NY. You indicate all these positions available for immigrants, which Trump is not letting in anymore. But these positions are all seasonal, some 2-3 months apparently. Where do you suppose all these workers go/how do they survive during the non-touristy months? What Tom Friedman is showing us is that successfully integrated towns can, and need to, embrace immigrants totally -- in their schools, jobs and community organizations.

  63. @katea You are right that most of these jobs in SS are seasonal. And since many of the seasonal workers are Mexican (especially the jockeys and other race track workers), I assume that some at least, return to Mexico -- but I'm not sure. Also, there are year-round workers who are immigrants... and because they disappeared when ICE was reportedly conducting a big round up in the area, I assume they were undocumented workers. One lovely waitress at a Turkish restaurant was from the Ukraine. She spoke 4 languages, was highly intelligent, young, attractive, friendly, interesting and we looked forward to seeing her whenever we went to that restaurant. She's gone. I do not know exactly where she lived. SS is not an integrated city -- it's very White. But there are other cities not too far (Albany, Schenectady, Troy) which are more integrated. Perhaps some recent immigrants who work in SS live there. One very handsome, young waiter from Istanbul quickly married his American-born girlfriend. So he moved to Clifton Park to live with her and so no longer works at the Turkish restaurant in SS. Presumably his marriage to an American helped with his immigration status -- not sure how that works. BTW, SS is Trump country. Being from NYC we were hardly aware of just how Republican Upstate NY is. A restaurant in nearby Glens Falls actually had a SHRINE to Trump -- photos, flowers, Trump doll and a small Hillary doll in a prison stripes! We'd never go back there.

  64. 45 says America is full So not true! Even in AZ my son says he can not find find people to work for his landscaping company. My church has provided shelters for immigrates dropped at bus shelters till they can get bus tickets to go to sponsors. They arrive with nothing..esp. shoes, clothing. They are such great people..who would not bring their children for a better life. I admire them.Give me your huddled masses...

  65. Sadly, Trump won’t go. This is not a story he wants to hear. He needs xenophobia to stoke his base. Without that, he’s got nothing.

  66. @Rich Casagrande Being against illegal immigration is not "xenophobia." Stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Ask yourself how all these new immigrants are able to afford expensive American healthcare. Government support? Highly likely. Ask yourself why middle class American citizens are getting crushed by skyrocketing health care insurance premiums while new immigrants get it free on the government dime? Then maybe you can break out of your far left bubble and understand the dynamic of what is really happening in America.

  67. Great article. This definitely jibes with my experience in the area - the communities that embrace newcomers thrive, and the ones that don't wither into dust on the prairie.

  68. The sign says it all. Welcome. sounds like a great town and more people should make other towns work like this one. Bravo to all

  69. Thanks for a "good news" story. We need them to keep up the hope and energy to fight all the bad news.

  70. Thank you for this story Tom.

  71. This is how humans were intended to be. Governing ourselves with logic, facts, truth, balance, and compassion The Tyrants of the world cannot stand goodwill toward all. We must continue to fight them, so those with common sense of reality can continue to make humanity as decent as Wilmar.

  72. You see, Tom, that if you travel the back roads, find the small towns, talk to everyday Americans - immigrants and all, hang out at the local Mexican food joint, drive to the next bigger city, check out the movie theater, enroll in a class at the local college, roast a chicken and have friends over for dinner, try yoga in the park with strangers...you know, just live authentically, you might understand our country and make friends and care about humanity and follow the laws. Even wealthy people do this stuff. trump is not going to Willmar or any other town. He doesn't speak to people or observe people or travel to towns or learn or find out, he just rouses crowds with his condescending simple-speak. He already started a war in our country and he seems bent on another war far away. He wouldn't know how to exist in Willmar.

  73. Willmar may be indeed a "modern, successful American melting pot". It's crime rates, however, are higher than the average for the rest of Minnesota. https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/mn/willmar/crime: MY CHANCES OF BECOMING A VICTIM OF A VIOLENT CRIME 1 IN 289 in Willmar 1 IN 420 in Minnesota and check out the rest of the statistics. Not a battle field, but higher in all aspects than the rest of the state. Does that mean anything? Does this vitiate Mr. Friedman's description and view of the northern Garden of Eden? I don't know, but I do know that a tad more research might have given a fuller, more complete and more honest picture.

  74. How does Wilma’s compare to all MN towns similar to its population? Even with the numbers you show, it’s 2 in a 1,000 for statewide versus 3 in a 1,000.

  75. @Bascom Hill My point is that this is something that Mr. Friedman should look at, even briefly. I am not after all on the NYT payroll, nor does my own personal research deal with crime rates in MN. It is not only about the integration in the high school and the available jobs and a pro-immigration mayor. There had been crime in the 1990s. The mayor said it stopped. The statistics tell a somewhat more complex story. Mr. Friedman may not be wrong in the positive aspects; I just ask that even in an op-ed there be a more complete description, even of potential problematical aspects.

  76. I’m not sure the Garden of Eden is a good exemplar for a harmonious community - you should see how the story ends before you judge.

  77. I will never forget that on the night before Election Day in 2016, Donald Trump went to Minnesota in a last minute attempt to stir up some xenophobic fear against Somali refugees, claiming that they were coming into the country without being properly vetted and that many were joining ISIS. His fear-mongering worked in almost of the key battleground states—except Minnesota, which went for Hillary Clinton.

  78. @Big Electric Cat Barely. Next time we will take this state also. God Bless President Trump.

  79. This is like a breath of fresh air after reading too often the hate and racist crimes of this nation. I recall back in the 70's large groups of refugees from Southeast Asia, many if not most of the Buddhist tradition, landed on our California shores. Poor and lost in this new, different Western culture. But did they work and assimilate and educate themselves and their children! These Vietnamese, Laotians, and Thais, are now leaders, educators, doctors, teachers, good solid citizens contributing to society. Willmar is the continuation of an America rooted in diversity of race, ethnicity, and religion. Willmar is another strong thread in our tapestry of oneness and community. It is the only way our democracy can survive. We have gotten where we are by inclusion, and it is the only way we can sustain ourselves, thrive, and progress. We were all others once upon a time. Let us never forget that.

  80. @Kathy Lollock - Thanks for your thoughts. It reminds me that with all the millions of immigrants who have landed in America, it is only the smallest of the small percentage who may have caused any problems. And perhaps being welcomed more openly, even the "bad ones" might have succeeded.

  81. West Virginia is so white and so red. Even my Native WV husband says he misses the diversity of the DC area where we lived up until three years ago. Neighbor who is also a Veteran makes fun of the people who you talk to on the phone when you call a state government agencies phone number. Anything new takes getting use to and living in WV has been tough!!

  82. I grew up in the Midwest and live in Minnesota. The key to the health and vitality of our state, which is substantial, is our economic diversity: The multitude of industries and employers here across very different sectors. It is that diversity that supports and encourages our cultural diversity, because we do not have groups threatened and fighting over resources. Add to that a longstanding, earthy, common sense approach to politics and you get the resources and practicality that has served this state so well. Quality of life here is far better than on the coasts, whether in terms of traffic, cleanliness, or wealth disparities. We have a mix of ideologies and cultures that prevents us from becoming a bubble of faux liberalism like the Bay Area or Portland, where people talk a lot about social justice but do little to address it. Here we still have working class liberals who are in a union and support gay marriage but also go to McDonald's and go fishing. Occasionally I go to San Francisco with its poopy streets and syringe-sprinkled parks, and always look forward to getting back home where neither of those conditions are seen. Willmar is not an oddity here. It's only an oddity from a coastal perspective.

  83. Please refrain from future bay area visits. We have plenty of tourist dollars, thanks.

  84. @Tintin - It's amazing how so many people in the middle of the country resent and whine about what they see as disrespect from those dang coastal elites but who have no hesitation about bashing the people on the coasts as they tell as how much better they are. And as they claim to be the REAL Americans. Maybe we people on (or near) the coasts should start whining like too many mid-westerners do.

  85. @karen I go only when I have to. Would more public restrooms do the trick? It seems like that would be a cause everyone could get behind, no? Why does San Francisco talk so much about social justice yet do so little to address obvious social need?

  86. Inspiring article! There’s hope. To Hamse’s kid, who doesn’t follow soccer because he loves the Minnesota Vikings: no worries! Now you’ve got the first-tier Minnesota United FC, the “Loons” Soccer Club you can (also) follow!

  87. There is of course, good immigration and bad.

  88. @Liz I believe the article is demonstrating that if a community works hard to make people feel included and valued, the immigrants will respond just as you or I would coming into a new area not knowing anything about the culture. We would want help and appreciate getting it. We would want to share our ideas and get to know our community. We would want to assimilate as best possible, understanding there will be a learning curve and aspects we would want to keep alive with our own culture. I would like to know what you consider, "bad immigration".

  89. When the first wave of Irish and Italian immigrants arrived in NYC, signs went up in store fronts below the ‘help wanted’ signs. Those additional signs said ‘no Italians’ and ‘no Irish’. What’s your definition of good versus bad immigrants? DJT wants Norwegians to immigrate to the USA but they have it way better in Norway than the typical citizen of America.

  90. @Liz Thank you.

  91. Thank you Thomas Friedman for the great article on Willmar. I love Willmar. I had an opportunity in the early 2000s to work on a leadership program sponsored by the Blandin Foundation in MN, called Partners in Leadership. Willmar was the pilot site and I spent about a year going back and forth from the Twin Cities working with established leaders and leaders in the Latino community to design the program. There have been many changes over the years but Willmar has some strong committed leaders.

  92. Gifted writing. Best piece I have read. The unfolding stories inspire and give me hope. The story of the Somali reunion at Hershey Park, "Willmar is my hometown" pulled at my heart as much as "Ich bin ein Berliner" did back in my day. Thanks

  93. So the main trumpeter for globalization has decided to re-examine small town America. I see a bad book coming. I live in a small town in NYC called Richmond Hill and I bet we have greater diversity than Wilmar, Minnesota. Many neighborhoods in Queens would devour this small time outpost of global citizens. We have had borough wide massive ethnic redistribution, check out Flushing,Corona or South Ozone Park. What might fascinate you about this tiny blip on the immigration scene has been happening under your very eyes for many years. YOU have to get off your mountain and look down!

  94. @Danny Seaman You completely missed the main point of the article, which was that diversity is working in the hinterlands as well as the coasts.

  95. Wait! What? Why not say and this is good to see in the heartland? There is more. It’s not a competition with what’s in Brooklyn. Why so negative?

  96. The point was not a competition but rather that diversity can and does flourish outside where many know it. Open arms not scowls.

  97. Outstanding! Give us more!

  98. I’m an old, white geezer well past 70. Reading this makes me have some hope that this is what America is moving toward in the 21st century. That the self-centered, xenophobic nastiness of the trump era will fade and eventually be overrun by decency and the sense of community that Tom describes in Wilmer. Hard to see that happening from where we are today, but one can hope for the sake of one’s children and grandchildren.

  99. @pb I remember right after 9/11 ole Tom Brokaw asked the Tom Ridge former governot of Pa. as to what he think america will become in the future? I took from the query Brokaw posed to imply that america will be darker and that changed is inevitable.

  100. In thinking about this article, this is what made the California of my youth work. In my 6th grade class, the teacher asked everyone who was born there to raise their hands, all 2 of us. Though not the bastion of liberalism that many think, think Orange County, it is diverse. I believe that is what has made it the economic powerhouse that it is.

  101. Thanks. Difficult to be hopeful these days but this gives me hope.

  102. This melting pot, the tolerance, the sense of civic responsibility, this is just my everyday expectation. I live in the SF bay area. Ground zero for the American melting pot for decades. I went for a walk at my local park today and no two groups I encountered spoke the same language. My kids grew up understanding that differences are to be celebrated rather than feared. In a way, it's kinda sad that Mr. Friedman finds this place so exceptional.

  103. @Vicki Ralls in an effective melting pot, all those people would've been speaking English in a generation. Unfortunately, our society has forgotten that cultural assimilation is just as important as welcoming new and needed sources of labor.

  104. @LawDog I don’t care what language they speak as long as they are good neighbors.

  105. "These leaders without authority check their party politics at the door and focus only on what works." This says partisanship is dysfunctional, valuing who gets power instead of getting the job done. We've seen a lot of that, and we are sick of it.

  106. @Mark Thomason But it makes so much money for a few greedy people. It won't change unless we change the laws governing our election systems. I hope to see that happen in my lifetime.

  107. @Mark Thomason I agree that partisanship is dysfunctional. Think about the sense of it and you realize it is directed at power for those in power. It is not about "we the people" and community or nation. Addison McConnell worries about his party and fails to realize he is disabling democracy for the sake of power. When the focus is on "we the people" this country is pretty successful. Look at the WPA and CCC days and how we rose to help the nation as a collective.

  108. @reffland -- Thank you. Both replies get it, but this one brings an extra point -- it has not always been this way. We've done better, and not that long ago.

  109. Someone below commented on the great stories, and it is the detail that makes this piece so heart-warming. The conservative politicians of America speak in generalities and stereotypes, but it is the specifics, like the cashier at the restaurant jumping up, giving a hug and describing Willmar as his hometown that really carry the weight of reality. Nobody is all good or all bad, and it is this description of ordinary people, from seemingly unordinary birthplaces, that catches my attention: they are trying to get by, they are dealing with every day problems. What is it about the people around them that allows them to express out loud what they need, and then find enough people to fill that need? I suspect these people have learned one simple lesson: they're not all that different underneath. The kid likes Vikings. Don't many of us?

  110. Of course we will never read of the downside of immigration from someone like Friedman, we will never read something about how to deal with gangs like Mara Salvatrucha (MS13). We will never read about expenses, about the economic and social circumstances of integration. We will never read about the loss of coherence in a society, that is already under an economic strain. We will never read about how close Willmar is to Weimar. While Trump and his incompetent band of xenophobes is in denial about certain aspects of migration, liberals are in willfull denial of other aspects. Pundits in their ivory towers do not realize, that the average joe may have total different experiences and expectations with diversity, and maybe these expectations do not include fancy restaurants. And maybe some people just get annoyed by liberals portraying themself as "pluralizing, globalizing and modernizing" and insinuating that everyone else is petty-minded and backwardly. Maybe they see essays of migration like this one here just as another attempt to pit up people against their own. Maybe people just don't want to be lectured while their promises of freedom an opportunity are eroding. Morality play while a country is in a social decline is one reason for someone like Trump, although it should be obvious, that people like Trump are the cause for the social decline. Good intentions are just not that simple. By trying to make them look simple they rightfully draw the ire of opposition.

  111. @Mathias Weitz I find your argument a bit skewed. It doesn't matter if you were born in a country or immigrated and became a citizen then... what you do with your life is "your" personal responsibility. And if you fail, don't go looking blaming who you call 'others'. That's your rhetoric. And I have seen this behavior as first hand witness in Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, WV, Alabama... and oh, let's not forget Mississippi. I will give you example of Kentucky, the poorest and socially the worst off states in US, where unfortunately I got to see things which even as a physician, I wish I hadn't. I see an immigrant population filling up the universities and those same kids working late in the evenings at restaurants, gas stations, where ever work was... by contrast, our ICUs were FULL of young white males who are alcoholics or drug addicts... and we felt helpless to get these people back to any normalcy of life. I lost count of drug associated deaths in ICU... and worse because every death meant, going through the case reviews with admin, senior staff. After a while you just sat there, and said, please review all you like... but it was already too late. And none, among us is God. Majority Americans don't want to hear and discuss about the opioid epidemic decimating young Caucasian populations. It IS a choice. Don't go blaming others for your own mistakes.

  112. @Mathias Weitz Where is American society in the most rapid decline? The Democratic Party-led cities. Fine me a large Dem city on the left coast that does NOT have piles of human digestive after-product stinking up that streets. And then there's Detroit. Outsiders to D.C. like Trump are the solution to all this neglect.

  113. @Mathias Weitz You could have written your "response" to Friedman's article without reading a word of it, based simply on your assumptions about "Pundits in their ivory towers" and your intense bias against immigrants. You didn't mention or deal with a single one of the concrete facts on the ground and personal stories in the article, all of which give the lie to your angry generalizations.

  114. What an incredible story of resilience, compassion, teamwork and so much more. These are the stories we need to hear. They give me hope in humanity during a time when I feel surrounded by so much hate. I wish the town of Wilmar well and hope other towns emulate their success. Diversity is our strength. We are known as a melting pot, after all.

  115. Mr. Trump would be delighted by what he would see at Willmar. It is a glorious example of how LEGAL immigration can benefit a community and a country. Mr. Trump supports our legal immigration system which admits more than a million immigrants per year, more than any other country. What Trump and most citizens oppose is ILLEGAL immigration. All too often, it brings masses of impoverished, desperate people into this country without the work skills to contribute to this country and in need of costly social services. Illegal immigration is also a conduit for organized crime, as difficult as it is for some to accept. This country will always welcome individuals from all over the world who can contribute. That's what makes our country so vital and successful. Illegal immigration is a wholly different matter.

  116. @Alex Except that studies do not support your contentions. Immigrant crime is probably lower than native born and certainly not higher. Though immigrants cost a little more per capita than native-born they contribute even more to economy per capita -- so they are greater assets than native born if you want to resort to such a crass measure. People who look at costs forget that non-documented immigrants pay a lot into social security and medicare that they will never get back. Though we accept more immigrants total than other countries, we are not near the top of the list of immigrants admitted per capita or per unit land mass. The Republicans have nixed all attempts in the past decade or two to improve immigration laws -- including George W. Bush's attempts. And most Trump supporters ignore the fact that their fore-bearers got in the country before the present onerous laws and other obstacles were in place. Trump has said he wants to reduce the number of legal immigrants coming in. We need more immigrants to keep America economically healthy. And it just happens to be the moral thing to do.

  117. @Alex Except that these are the immigrants that trump is trying to keep out of the US, with his Muslim ban, and his drastic reductions in the number of any immigrants from non-European countries. Somalia is on the list of 7 countries where immigrants are prohibited from entering the US. And in 2016, trump told a Minnesota audience: that Minnesota had "suffered enough" at the hands of Somali immigrants, who began moving there as refugees in the early 1990s. "Large numbers of Somali refugees [are] coming into your state without your knowledge, without your support or approval, and with some of them then joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views all over our country and all over the world."

  118. This article is not about what President Trump likes or dislikes. It is not about the benefits vs. costs of illegal immigration. This article is about how communities thrive when they accept and nurture ethnic diversity (or wither if they resist). I lived in that area during the 1970’s. Ethnic “tensions” existed, largely jokingly, between the Norwegians and the Swedes. A generation earlier, such tensions had a little more bite. And now? They’re lumped together as part of white America. (My American-Swedish spouse still bristles, however, when she’s referred to as a WASP rather than as a Scandinavian.) When I lived there, a member of the LCA Lutheran Church would not set foot in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church (let alone a Catholic Church). And now? They’re lumped together as Christians. America’s story has always been a melting pot...has always been a story of taking in the stranger and making him one of us.

  119. @KCF Mr Friedman has written written many pieces of the economic topics you mention. Most recently, he showed that the improvement in the jobless numbers is a simple continuation of the trend President Obama established, and that is clearly a message the disaffected need to hear. But today he wrote about immigration and how it can be seen in this town as the answer to an economic problem, as well as a human, American success. Also a message that needs to be heard.

  120. Thank you so much for sharing a story about what really makes America great. I suspect it's been difficult for every new immigration to be accepted into our communities, I'e got old emigre blood from the French Huguenots as well as later Irish, German, and Ashkenazim Jewish blood. Just another New York mutt. At any rate, we will accept new peoples, new languages, new cultures, and many new delicious foods! Willmar is just a town who has a community of who most of us are, immigrants.

  121. I really needed a hopeful article today - thank you!

  122. I appreciate this piece immensely. Willmar is a model for the nation. One more overlooked group that companies might scour when trying to fill open jobs in a tight labor market: unemployed workers aged 50 , many of whom have decades of experience.

  123. A recent (and complementary) article in The Times mourned the loss of hospitals and clinics in towns like Willmar. Besides an aging population and a failing medical system - pace Obamacare - we have a scarcity of doctors willing to work in rural locations. Imagine a world where competent foreign born physicians receive citizenship in exchange for commitment to several years of service. Sadly, in the countryside where immigrants are roundly despised, this is a pipe dream.

  124. @jrsherrard I suspect there is more to the shortage of doctors, especially primary physicians, in rural areas. The cost of medical education and training is enormous; most qualifying doctors start their professional lives with huge debt. Is it any wonder that more prefer to establish practices in population centers, especially in lucrative specialty surgery? We need financial encouragement to redress the balance.

  125. @Regulareater My wife is an ER doc and Asian immigrant. Rural hospitals were actually offering her almost twice the salary to go there, but we decided to stay in the city anyhow. She was worried about the lack of support staff at rural hospitals, and having grown up in rural PA, I was worried about the racism she'd face. So, at least in our case, it wasn't the money that kept us from going into the countryside.

  126. My dad was born in Willmar, Minnesota, my parents met and were married there, and my three eldest siblings were born there. No matter where my family lived, Willmar was our home base. Immigrants have made the city better, just as they make our country better. (Weird coincidence: The principal of Willmar High School, quoted in this column, is Paul Schmitz, no relation.)

  127. Therefore, universal love is really the way of the sage-kings. It is what gives peace to the rulers and sustenance to the people. The gentleman would do well to understand and practice universal love; then he would be gracious as a ruler, loyal as a minister, affectionate as a father, filial as a son, courteous as an elder brother, and respectful as a younger brother. So, if the gentleman desires to be a gracious ruler, a loyal minister, an affectionate father, a filial son, a courteous elder brother, and a respectful younger brother, universal love must be practiced. It is the way of the sage-kings and the great blessing of the people.--Mozi, 16.15

  128. As always, in our rapidly changing world it's the people that make the difference. America was always a melting pot and keeping it that way is the right thing to do.

  129. Willmar, Kandiyohi County is where my great-grandmother landed from Norway more than one hundred years ago! What a great (and well researched) column! Thank you. I’m wondering how to twin of Faribault is doing...

  130. This is a fabulous article that gives genuine hope for change in the U.S. national psyche. Let's hope Willmar's inspiring example of tolerance and inclusion spreads nationwide in time for the 2020 election. Naturally, Trump will ratchet up the hatred, as hatred is the only fuel his political machine can run on. But I have a gut feeling Willmar is the trend and not the exception.

  131. @Hamid Varzi When can I be accepted in Mecca as a Christian as the arrivals have accepted with their faith in Minnesota?

  132. I like this article so much, and only have one comment: I think the story illustrates, not that Trump should come, but that Trump doesn't matter. Leaders come and go, they rant a lot, often lie, but people, ordinary people living their lives and developing their thoughts, carry on regardless. Tolstoy understood that: clever leaders see which way things are going and run in front, pretending to lead, but the real truth is somewhere else: in the heart and souls of millions of ordinary people. And broadly, slowly, not everywhere, not all the time, we are getting better. Trump and co don't really make that much difference. They (and we) think they do, but they don't. Not really, not for long.

  133. @Nick Shepherd Have been reading a lot of history lately and I beg to differ. Leaders at the top in fact can make the difference between a country moving forward and one that falls behind. We are currently in the latter category and it is urgent that a change is made.

  134. @Thomas Good point. What would America be like if Washington had not been Washington?

  135. @Nick Shepherd Leaders matter, laws matter, by those is society shaped.

  136. For the past few years I work on my "book" on why societies fail. I keep coming back to the idea that leadership matters. Some leaders make mistakes by focusing on gods and power. Teotihuacan fails because the temples needed to be replastered and that meant deforestation and ultimately erosion. The implosion was a more than anything due to a revolt where archaeological evidence suggests all of the elite compounds were burned. Ironically, another nearby archaeological site has a mural showing Teotihuacan burning. The other issue is that leadership does not know how to fix problems. The scalar stress at Angkor was so great that when climate changes due to the Little Ice Age hit and destroyed the heads of the vast canal system, no one knew how to fix the problem. The problem was so big and the knowledge or capacity to fix it wasn't there. Wow - leadership that cares about society in Willmar! I tend to think Tribal people don't fail because leadership is formed around an egalitarian society. Bali is a great example of sustainability because the water temples flatten society and everyone matters. I do love Thomas Friedman's world view shared in this small community. How to make this happen in a larger one is the issue. That takes vision.

  137. Thank you for this wonderful article. We need more positive stories like these today. My family live in Minneapolis and chose to send my granddaughter to a dual Spanish/English immersion public school. It has been a wonderful experience for the whole family. 50% of the students are Hispanic and the other 50% are not. Kindergarten teaching is 90% in Spanish, graduating to 50/50 Spanish/English in 5th grade. My family is currently living in Guadalajara for a year and, although my granddaughter attends the American School there, 80% of the students are Mexican. In fifth grade, she has been placed in Spanish Language class and Mexican History class with the Mexican students. Apart from the obvious language advantage, the cultural exposure both in Minneapolis and in Mexico has given her an excellent start in our increasingly multi-cultural society. I am in awe of the efforts being made in Willmar to facilitate integration on so many levels.

  138. Tom- We need a deep dive into “leaders without authority.” It’s a great book title and would make an amazing read and provide a way forward for the entire country. I watched it in action when a very few civic-minded business leaders in Worcester, MA saw the need for skilled high school grads & created Worcester Technical HS, one of the great public secondary ed stories of the 21st century. Obama gave their commencement address a few years back. I contrast it to its big sister, Boston, which, despite its vast resources, has never had a successful technical ed program because it’s “leaders without authority” are into more self-aggrandizing foolish enterprises like bringing the Olympics to Boston.

  139. A big challenge is that the sources of civic leadership have been hollowed out in small cities and town, due to big box businesses taking over. There used to be local banks, hardware stores, department stores, etc., with local owners. Now there are big stores and banks with regional managers who are just employees. They’re afraid to get involved with local affairs because they might lose their jobs.

  140. This is a delightful, feel-good column by Tom Friedman, but the story of Wilmar has an important lesson for America. Diversity is the future of the nation, and you can get there intelligently like Wilmar, or you can be dragged there while foolishly resisting the unknown and missing the chance to do it right. The xenophobic racists for whom Donald Trump is a hero are fighting a rear-guard action, and they justify their bias by claiming that integration always ends in tragedy. Places like Wilmar, Minnesota, prove them wrong.

  141. @sdw, but you also have to listen to the other side of any debate. Yes, we want to get their "intelligently" but does intelligently means cutting down the forests, doubling the population in two decades, and trying to integrate half the population that come from countries that did not even have either a stop sign or a education system pass the 6th grade. We need an intelligent mix and I don't see Wilmar as the model. Nor do the residents there judging by Trump winning the county....people need to stop and think or we will see a generation of Trumps at the head of our country.

  142. @DoctorRPP, “trying to integrate half the population that come from countries that did not even have either a stop sign or a education system pass the 6th grade.” That could describe three out of four of my grandparents, and one was from the US. The other two came from rural France. None had past a sixth grade education, and came from towns I think without stop signs, and definitely from homes without electricity. Fifty years later, their children are an Air Force Officer, a Portfolio Manager, a Physical Therapist who works with severely disabled children, and a hospital IT Supervisor. I recognize you were talking about specifically allowing many immigrants in from less developed countries at once, and maybe at some amount of influx that would be an issue. I don’t think we are close to that amount. We have always been afraid of our immigrants - my grandparents were encouraged to not speak Breton with their children, because it would “confuse” them. But immigrants go on to help our country anyway.

  143. @DoctorRPP Come to WV the least diverse state in the country. We are losing population and jobs while becoming poorer whiter more polluted and more ignorant. Many struggling red states like WV should welcome immigrants with open arms instead of shunning them. Running and hiding from the world does not work. We proved it.

  144. This is an uplifting piece. But this president is not going anywhere near this town. It is the polar opposite of the America he and his base have scared themselves into believing exists. And since Trump’s core message of “America First” consists of fear and anger about immigrants and the rest of the world, the hope, collaboration and tolerance represented here won’t interest them. In fact, it would scare them.

  145. An uplifting story. A story of hope for America's future. Besides "community" and "integration," I hope "civics" is part of the Willmar story. Civics is how we learn to understand our nation's history, appreciate and contribute to what makes our nation exceptional, navigate and overcome the challenges to our nation's unity, prosperity and security. I look forward to learning the Somalis, Guatemalans, Burmese immigrants have become US citizens, that more have entered local government, entered state and national politics. America's ideal is that all men and women are created equal. Let's all of us strive to make that our reality. Those who resist change have forgotten or never been taught civics. They long to live in a past which no longer exists. Not only is the past not coming back, but we should embrace our future, not the past.

  146. @JABarry I agree 100%, but I doubt that the "past" that some people want to return to ever existed except on television.

  147. I would be most interested in a follow-up about aging in place in Willmar. I would think/hope that the diversity there bodes well for compassion and support for older adults, especially the frail elderly dealing with long winters. Willmar is lucky to have a vibrant economy to attract younger families. (And I agree with others - leaders without authority will be a great book - I am placing a hold on it at my library.)

  148. Thank you for writing a great story about what we can become!

  149. This should give us all hope. We are moving forward and the voices of heat and negativity cannot stop us. There will always be those who oppose the changes that are taking place in our society. Those who accept change will be the ones in charge in the future. As an aging boomer, I am disappointed that many of my generation are fighting the changes that have taken place during my lifetime. After all, many of us advocated for change in the 1970s, It is finally happening. Despite the lack of leadership in Washington and the current administration, it is the people on the ground who are pushing the change. This time voters, get out and vote!

  150. Good for them. Change is hard for many people as humans are hard-wired to stick to their own kind and to be leery of the outsider. Other individuals simply feel threatened by what is unfamiliar. Still, it seems that good progress is being made. With such change it can be two steps forward and one step back for a long time. Still, as noted, we need immigrants. We need them in our workforce, but we also need their creativity and their youth. I firmly believe that a community is richer when it embraces the mosaic of peoples with which the world is populated.

  151. @Anne-Marie Hislop. I have lived overseas for the last 30 years. The more experiences I have and the more I see of cultures and people in foreign lands, the more I believe that the US is pursuing a dangerous path that will lead to Balkanization and violence. Most other countries, certainly non-western ones, keep their culture. I have adapted to them in language and behavior. In all cases, my hosts have been forthcoming generous and hospitable. What I have seen in the United States is v what I have seen in United States is visitors is immigrants wanting to change wholesale the ethos of our country. People did not seek that, advocate for that, or desire that change. It was the non-reproducing (I have 8 children) intellectual class of which the writer is an ardent member that has pushed this agenda. I hope I am wrong, but it will not end well.

  152. @John It seems that assimilation goes both ways. Residents of the older, dominant culture need to work to assimilate new and different residents and to be assimilated themselves into the new mixed culture that is being created. I remember Ray Suarez, speaking to a latino group, telling them that their grandchildren will not speak Spanish. Everyone coming to America finds that they too can become American.

  153. So exactly how did you infer from the article that these immigrant groups were trying to make wholesale changes to the “dominant culture”? A culture, incidentally, that needs their skills and work ethic.

  154. What strikes me most of this little town, Willmar, is that its leaders want the town to be successful and are ready to do things to make it successful. This one beacon will make it successful. I wish every town in America does the same. Sadly however, the moment some of the politicians move to the county level or state level, things become more political. Agendas come in to play. Powerful corporations want a piece of the pie in terms of tax breaks and state money to setup business. Religious groups have their own agenda and influence. The health of the county or state gets lost in this chaos and we land in a quagmire. The state of the union is not far behind!

  155. Great story. Hopeful and we all need to hope

  156. Thank you for this story. It makes one believe there is hope for humanity.

  157. Thank you, Mr Friedman, for this hopeful essay that suggests progress is being made, while noting, realistically, that Willmar remains a work in progress. Your article notes several factors that have contributed to moving the needle: available jobs, visible community wide efforts, entrepreneurial leadership, and personal relationships that build bridges rather than walls. The reality is, of course, that our labor force needs immigrants, and rural communities can thrive when that need is embraced. Communities willing to examine their own attitude of welcome and tolerance may be more open to change and welcoming the other. You also note something that causes concern: Mr Hamse Warfa's young son is "all about the Vikings." That's going to be a tough road, but Minnesotans from the Iron Range to the Iowa border can, and will, rally around him. Like Willmar, the Vikings are a "work in progress," and fandom here is not for the faint of heart. Best of luck to you, young man. My hopes align perfectly with yours!

  158. Local leadership matters, but so too does a willingness at the national level to allow immigration and refugee resettlement. The Trump administration 's clampdown on refugees is not simply cruel but also extremely damaging economically for many towns and small and medium-sized cities across the country.

  159. @Ben Lieberman Our President is not clamping down on refugees. He is, rightfully so, clamping down on people who wish to gain entry into our country, take advantage of its glorious benefits, but not do so in a legal manner. I know that is a notion which the Left refuses to acknowledge ....but doesn't make it any less true. Come here through legal channels.

  160. @Ben Lieberman Trump only wants legal immigration. It is the Democrats who have failed to provide that path.

  161. I live about halfway between Willmar and St. Cloud (the White Cloud in the article), so I am familiar with both. Haters around here like to use the nebulous, "they should assimiliate!" in their complaints. Traveling to both towns for healthcare and big-box retail, I am convinced "they" have assimilated just fine. Last week while she was waiting for my receipt to print, I spied the young Somali clerk checking her smart phone. I'm in a town filled with white, Christian teens who do the exact same thing.

  162. Always enjoy your column. One question: How many of the residents have followed the legal path and are here lawfully, not unlawfully. I suspect lawfully and hence the ready acceptance. It does make a difference. Good for Willmar.

  163. Thank you, Mr. Friedman, for this beautiful and inspiring story. We can only hope that the next generation of America's leaders come from places like Willmar.

  164. There are counterparts all over my state of Georgia. My Methodist church has immigrants from Third-World countries who may stand out due to dress and skin color but at the moment of introduction, everything changes. There are basics in our humanity that thrive on smiles, handshakes and hugs. Professional soccer is booming in Atlanta drawing crowds that are larger than the NFL team. The stands are packed with immigrants who wear t-shirts with the logo, "Atlanta United." The suburban city of Clarkston may have the most diverse population in the U.S. Dr. King often said it was hard to hate someone after you get to know them.

  165. This phenomenon has been going on for some time. Places to add to this article are all over the country. Maine,Vermont, New York. California, Iowa, Kansas. New Hampshire. Hopefully Democratic candidates can help spread the story.

  166. Any story can have a happy ending as long as you end the story at the right spot.

  167. What a breath of fresh air, this article is. Accepting people with different backgrounds as part of the community helps prosperity and well being. The connection between jobs and the involvement of the business sector with the high-school is a necessary model for our culture. Of course, this community had available jobs for their young people, which also holds this community as a model of what must happen for a community to become successful. Were the jobs less available, it could have created more tension between groups.

  168. "President Trump, Come to Willmar" Willmar sounds like a nice place, but it sits in the 7th Congressional District of Minnesota and in 2016, 62% of its citizens voted for Trump with Clinton only getting 31%. Kandiyohi County, of which Willmar is the county seat, has has gone from Democratic to Republican in recent years. In national elections since 1996 the county has supported the Republican candidate. So, what we really have to learn from Willmar is that the rural world it inhabits is representative of the urban/rural split that explains much of the polarization in this country. And yes, Trump would likely be welcomed there.

  169. @GerardMit It's called the "Great Paradox". Like Louisiana this Minn town will still vote for the Big Con Trump (in La it's the petroleum pollution companies) that hurts them the most. Here in Ohio, the Farming community faces devastating losses over Trump's actions and yet they still believe all his lies that he and he alone will Make America Great Again. The Great Paradox will probably vote Trump back into office in 2020.

  170. @Gert Another way of looking at this "paradox" is to consider the US as comprised of 11 regional cultures popularly known as the "American Nations". It's worth looking up. As you'll see, the 2016 election fits fairly well into these various American Nations: + Yankeedom - mostly Clinton + New Netherland - solid Clinton +Tidewater - mostly Clinton + Deep South - mostly Trump + Spanish-Caribbean - mostly Clinton + New France - solid Trump + Greater Appalachia - solid Trump + Midlands - split + Far West - mostly Trump + El Norte - mostly Clinton + Left Coast - solid Clinton There you have it. It's a bit better way of seeing these United States as more of how it's really constituted.

  171. This article was the first of my morning and it's wonderfully refreshing and inspiring. One hopes there's a way to spread the cultural DNA of Willmar and spread it across the land. Willmar clearly demonstrated that diversity and inclusion are the foundation of the continuing success of our unique American participatory democracy. Thanks to all the people of Willmar for being great Americans!

  172. This encouraging article indicates to me that American is willing to move forwards instead of backwards. Obviously, as Tom points out, this is not always the case, but we have to continue to try. That is also a way of confronting the negativity being encouraged by our terrible misguided non-leader.

  173. @Steve there is a reason why Minnesota has turned blue and stayed that way. Places like Montana who have a geriatric permanent leadership is why it won't move anywhere. As long as the boomer industrial complex wins out here the young people will move causing brain drain and also no one to care for our population that is racing towards the "golden years" Lack of Dr's, nurses, CNA's and stupid voters who don't understand that Medicaid is what helps pay for nursing home (Montana's fastest growing housing market) care. They don't realize they need immigrants to do these jobs. They will lose their farms to "own the libs" and tbh, it seems like a fitting end to a generation who got everything, wants everything, yet calls millennials "entitled".

  174. A hopeful and positive story about the opportunity of America and a story that could be written about the immigrant experience in very few countries. In this instance, it sounds as though Willmar has made several smart decisions and they should be commended. The challenge that remains for Willmar and our country at large is something that wasn’t touched on - civic duty. I would submit that many of the challenges our country faces today stems from the fact that our citizenry is largely focused on their “rights” and mostly ignorant of our civic duties to each other, our communities, and country. The long term success of Willmar and the US will depend on a restoration of these civic duties. Only time will tell.

  175. ANY community (large or small) reaches a critical mass of leaders that gain control and then decide that anyone is welcome (regardless of skin color, religion or background) and that they will be treated fairly and equally. - it is that simple. Having said that, and because of such overt racism (that has reared its head as of late with this administration and President), any community that does embrace multiculturalism and globalism sees its people that make it up, work that much harder, while taking that much more pride in belonging. That is another simple maxim. The outside noise to all of that is constant, which is why we are seeing these types of communities grow exponentially faster than just all white communities that are stagnating. We are seeing the fear in people that do not want change, and the fear that they will somehow be ''overrun'' with people that do not look like them, do not pray like them (if at all), do not speak, eat, or live like them, and certainly do not vote like them. We are seeing the last throws of that backlash.

  176. I've put a lot of thought into this, and my best side believes I could actually run for office in 10 years. Not now. But possibly in 10 years. Some of us just get bored with humdrum life, and we think we can make a difference. I think my story is compelling, and that people will forgive my flaws. 10 years from now. Let's see how things go in the mean time. This should not be a close election. If Democrats are putting any effort into this at all, the win should be easy.

  177. Oh that poor child. As a lifelong Vikings fan, my heart weeps for him. But that’s an easy way to get acceptance in America, so good for him. But then again the whole article was about hope. Well done.

  178. Great story and very common. 40 miles west of Willmar is a very small named Milan, very Norwegian. Due to a connection with a missionary, a large group of Micronesians moved there and have helped revive the community. Nearby is a town named Dawson. The story of the reaction to their Muslim doctor recently appeared in the Washington Post. In all these communities, people actually practice Christianity, which promotes universal love and acceptance. It should be obvious that Trump’s combination greed, anger and hate are not the values practiced in the Willmar area.

  179. It would be interesting to know if the POC are able to and do vote. That would change the complexion of the politics in this area for real. If they don't, Trump politics will prevail.

  180. Here again, we see the beauty of human story that needs replication all around the developed and developing nations. Hope to see the 21st century technologies help in the creation of such global towns and villages where mutual respect is part of our genes.

  181. This is the America we need to see more often, thank you!

  182. I grew up in a small Minnesota town with a bustling Green Giant canning plant. In the 60’s Mexican migrant workers, only men, came to work in the plant and lived in the basement of the public library. They were outsiders and we were told to stay away from them. By the 90’s, entire Mexican families had begun to relocate and stay year round, by now making up about 1/3 of the classrooms in the local grade school. Wilmar is an inspiration to small town leaders with vision, curiosity and compassion for the changing demographic of America. Community centers, engaged businesses, culturally aware policing, and encouraging public schools will make the difference in this country, with those small towns building walls around themselves on the losing end of history.

  183. I have attended many naturalization ceremonies in Minnesota where we members of the League of Women Voters help register new citizens to vote. There are often close to 1,000 new citizens from 80 to 90 countries, and at least 90% are registered at that time. The ceremony is awe-inspiring, no matter how many times I've experienced it. These new citizens sing the Star-Spangled Banner, take the oath of citizenship, give the Pledge of Allegiance, and watch a video of naturalization ceremonies all over the country while a woman who sounds like Aretha Franklin sings America the Beautiful. They are warmly welcomed by a federal judge and often the governor or mayor. The excitement, pride, and joy in the room is incredibly moving. Families and children dress in their finest clothes, wave their little American flags, and take lots of photos. I encourage anyone to attend one of these ceremonies when you are feeling discouraged about our present state of affairs. You will be reminded that we are a nation of immigrants, and that is our future and our strength.

  184. Kudos again to Tom for a wonderful and simply worded but revealing article on the challenges we face in middle America. The problems span fear, economic decline, an imbalance between jobs and workers, exclusion of foreigners and "others", cultural stereotypes, racism, addiction, and leaders with courage and empathy. Your "three questions" lay out a practical solution. The article lucidly presents a picture of one town that, with its neighbors, had at one time faced blight. Yet because of its own home-grown forward-thinking courageous leaders, Willmar was able to propel itself into the 21st century -- and in the process show its left-behind neighbors that diversity is needed. Because diversity embraces our diverse human race. The story of Willmar looks promising, however there remain too many ramlliW towns (the reverse) whose fearful citizens choose to stay stuck in their nostalgia for an all-White but bigoted 1950s. Wanting a world where only White people have power and are respected (for being White!) is archaic and unrealistic - untenable. Towns facing decline must encourage their own "leaders without authority" to speak up, be courageous, and improve their community's future. Articles like this, written using English understandable by immigrants and Whites who never went to college, can help immensely.

  185. Thank you, a great piece, and a must read. The America we have always known is a dynamic country, a country based on an idea not an ethnicity, always becoming, never there yet.

  186. Thank you for an uplifting column. When you look at the national headlines you can sometimes think all is lost. But on the ground many things are changing for the better. Liberals are winning, as they have been winning for the last 600 years.

  187. An uplifting and inspiring article depicting a real and realistic american town . Let’s hope this message will spread around and help many more communities.

  188. I have visited friends in Willmar several times over the past decade, and have been increasingly impressed with the civic pride there. The people are friendly and welcoming, and after getting a tour of the high school I was very envious of the facilities as compared to the schools in my county which appear to be in a state of serious neglect by comparison. They are doing something right in Willmar.

  189. @Dan On December 26, 1862 38 brave honorable patriotic freedom fighting Dakota warriors were hung at Mankato, Minnesota by order of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln commuted the death sentences 264 of their fellow warriors to life in prison. Along with Dakota old men, women and children they were sent on a death march to an internment camp where many would die of disease, exposure and cold. The Dakota had risen up in order to obtain their divine natural certain unalienable rights of life, liberty and happiness. After peacefully enduring callous cruel corrupt exploitation by white European American Judeo-Christians. It was and still is the biggest mass execution in American history. And what happened to the Dakota in Minnesota has been overshadowed by what happened to their Lakota kin at Wounded Knee South Dakota. I have both black African and brown Dakota family in Minnesota. My Dakota family is doing much worse than my African family in Minnesota. And my black African American kin are doing much worse than folks who look like Tom Friedman and Donald Trump.

  190. A great piece and a great analysis of the changes that communities need to adapt to in order to flourish, in my opinion not just in the US. What the folks at Willmar manage to do really is unique and I would love to see this approach and these insights spread and reach our small country on the other side of the globe.

  191. CORRECTED Version: This article was the first of my morning and it's wonderfully refreshing and inspiring. One hopes there's a way to replicate the cultural DNA of Willmar and spread it across the land. Willmar clearly demonstrates that diversity and inclusion are the foundation of the continuing success of our unique American participatory democracy. Thanks to all the people of Willmar for being great Americans!

  192. A story about diversity, inclusion and hope. And about the people behind the scenes who work tirelessly to make it all happen. The best kind of story. One that shows us that the sun still shines on the human spirit. Many immigrants flee horrors, coming to America for a new beginning. We must endeavor to sustain their dreams, as best we can. In the words of Anne Frank: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

  193. @Blue Moon: "And about the people behind the scenes who work tirelessly to make it all happen." Absolutely. And thank you! I was fortunate to work for World Relief in the early nineties assisting predominantly Vietnamese families ... some of my greatest memories. It was hard, rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable work for wonderful people whose lives were literally and figuratively torn apart by war and war's consequences. 'Unless you've been there, you would have no clue.' - to paraphrase.

  194. @Positively We need more of you in this world. So desperately.

  195. I'm a senior raised on a farm in west central Minnesota. I left MN in my twenties. Many decades have passed since I was in Willmar. This article made my day. I knew immigrants were moving into MN, but your writing was a concrete eye opener, and provides hope for the heart, and for our country. Thank you Tom.

  196. What's not to like about any person who comes to love the ideals that America stands for? What's not to like about industrious, hard-working people? What's not to like about wanting to raise a family in safe environs and have the joys of children and grandparents? What's not to like about people who have goodness in them and want to prosper within a set of democratically constructed laws? What's not to like about anyone from anywhere adopting the civic religion of American, a fealty for the Constitution and adherence to the human rights enshrined therein? What's not to like about Americans whether born here or not, who come to love and appreciate her with patriotic ferver? What's not to like?

  197. @Paul King You forgot the happy change made in the local cuisine!

  198. @Paul King What's not to like? For Republican politicians, that's easy. These folks tend to vote Democratic.

  199. @Paul King There is a lot not to like if you are brown Native American pioneers aka Dakota still living very poorly and invisible in Minnesota. No people in the Americas had more of their lives, lands and natural resources stolen than the First People who were mistaken for Indians slurred with canards and tropes that deemed them savages. They were not Vikings. They did not live in America. How many local, state and federal elected officials in Minnesota have been Dakota? How many have been white European Judeo- Christians?

  200. My caucasian son was a minority at his elementary school in Kent, Wa, about 25 min south of Seattle. Somalian, India, Pacific Islanders, Ukrainian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Black, Mexican, Bosnian. And we all were neighbors, had play dates together, celebrated our children's birthdays together, mingled as our kids played at the playground together. It also didn't matter that he has two mommies. I marveled that he was minority white, and for him to be given even more exposure and experience to know different is not threatening, or scary, or wrong.

  201. @lar. Sounds like the city of Federal Way, AKA Felony Way. Perhaps the NYT would consider a piece on this place, a highly diverse, sizable bedroom community that is wracked with behavior/lifestyle problems that seem to have little to do with racism.

  202. @lar Where were the people.from the First Nations like the Nez Perce and Shoshone? North America was not a land without people for people without land.

  203. Willmar is an example of what other Minnesota cities are experiencing, as well. Latinos have been in my south-central Minnesota city for over 80 years. Somali for almost a quarter century. A friend of mine who is the VP of HR at a large glass fabrication company told me recently that without the 450 Somali and other immigrants working in their facilities, the work would not get done. As far as I am concerned, what has made this phenomenon successful is the lack of political intrusion. It is not surprising what can happen when human beings decide to treat other human beings civilly and respectfully even if the 'other' are ethnically, culturally, and religiously different. Perfect? No, because it never was. Acceptable? Yes.

  204. @Kiwi Kid The VP could not find Americans to do the work ?

  205. @John Brown "told me recently that without the 450 Somali and other immigrants working in their facilities, the work would not get done. " There is your answer.

  206. I grew up in rural Minnesota in the 70s in a small town not too different from Willmar. My mother was an immigrant from Japan. The only other immigrant at the time was a lovely Korean women. Both of them war brides. We were welcomed into the community. There were many churchgoing people who followed the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have then do unto you. I cringe wondering why more Christians no longer practice this. Arigato, Mr. Friedman, for giving me more reason to love Minnesota.

  207. @YukariSakamoto Do you know who lived in Minnesota before you and the Europeans arrived? Do you know any Dakota? They were nearly exterminated by white European ' Christians'. But they live as second class citizens in a first world nation in third world poverty.

  208. @Blackmamba yes on million dollar casino reservations.

  209. Why would we invite Trump to such a nice town?

  210. Thomas, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and did wonder where that metal map of the world came from. How appropriate. The only element of your writing that I take issue with is your shout out to "President Trump, Come to Willmar." President Trump will never come to Willmar because 1) Willmar does not need a Trump Tower 2) Willmar is a far to optimistic and diverse community. 3) Willmar is the antithesis of Trump's rhetoric of MAWA (Make America White Again). Other than that, loved your essay.

  211. Willmar sounds more like Lake Wobegon than Lake Wobegon did, with its population of souls "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." It is a shame that Garrison Keillor and his classic "A Prairie Home Companion" is no longer a morning staple. But then, no one much listens to the radio anymore. Things have changed much in Minnesota since I left Grand Rapids (Itasca County) in 1981. Recession had hit the Iron Range big time, and houses could be bought for as little as $5,000 in the small towns along Hwy 169 that only a few years earlier sold for 5 times that and more. In many of those towns, unemployment checks were the main source of income.

  212. Willmar sound like Storm Lake, Iowa that welcomes immigrants from all over the world and the community is thriving. Art Cullen, the editor of the Storm Lake Times and Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial writing, has written a book about Storm Lake, its history, on welcoming immigrants and how environmental and agricultural changes are impacting the area in which the town is located.

  213. This is exactly what we did 100 and more years ago with the waves of immigrants from Europe. Their integration into American society was far from smooth and their welcome was often rude, but we needed their labor so we figured it out. We wouldn't be the country we are if not for them. We can learn from some of those lessons today as we help new generations become Americans.

  214. @RW You left out that they fully assimilated.

  215. Culture matters. Diversity in the US can be a wonderful thing, but only if persons of different cultures do in fact become part of a melting pot of Americans committed to democracy, individual liberty and the values enshrined in the Declaration and the Constitution. It would be naive not to consider the harsh lesson that many Europeans have recently learned, where large numbers of immigrants from non-western cultures enter but are not assimilated. Our immigration policy should be thoughtful, not naive.

  216. The sad truth though is that Trump would never go to a place like Wilmar. It's success disproves all the gibberish, distortions and outright lies he spouts about immigrants. It is not a community he wants his base to see -- or that his base would embrace.

  217. @mjan That is not true at all.

  218. @mjan A lot of his 'base' lives here in Willmar. Kandiyohi county overwhelmingly voted for Trump. This area is fairly conservative.

  219. We do not like the thought of Trump coming to Minnesota. We have too many people like him in the state as it is.

  220. "Minnesota has given its electoral votes to the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1976. That's 11 straight. That's the longest blue streak in the country." - Minnesota Post, Nov 26, 2018

  221. Friedman is right about the parody of the middle of the country as merely flyover country; it's a bit too cliche. However, there's a huge cultural difference between the middle north (like Minnesota) and the middle south (like, say, Arkansas). One has the potential to be welcoming, inclusive, progressive, modern, and adaptable to the real world, and the other is retrograde, insular, mired in an almost medieval way of thinking, and is unprepared for the real world. One red; one blue. What you see from Trump and his cult are the death throes of this thinking; it gets angrier and more outraged as it dies, albeit a slow death.