A Burden Don Fraser Learned to Bear

My favorite personal memory of Don Fraser, who died earlier this week at 95.

Sometime in the mid-1980s, Don, who was then mayor of Minneapolis, said something about “unsupported women.”  By which he meant how it was personally unfair and socially unwise that so many women were left to raise their children without the help of husbands and fathers.  While he didn’t use politically risky terms such as “nonmarital births” or “out-of-wedlock births,” it still was a remarkably courageous – truly progressive – thing for a liberal Minnesota politician to talk and write about in the ‘80s – or still.

I was an editorial writer and columnist for the Pioneer Press at the time and thanked and congratulated him several times for his politically incorrect insight and fortitude, doing so orally on one occasion a few minutes before his own remarks at a conference in town.  Don kindly acknowledged my generosity, but given it was conservative me who extended it, he immediately added, “It’s a burden I’ve learned to bear.”

His male-bonding rejoinder remains one of the nicest things a distinguished public servant, regardless of party, has ever said to me, as witness how I’m still laughing gratefully three-plus-decades later.