Lake Calhoun

The Hennepin County Board will be voting soon on whether to rename Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis to Bde Maka Ska, Dakota words meaning Lake White Earth.

The argument of those advocating the change: John C. Calhoun, a Vice President and Secretary of State in the early 1800's, was a supporter of slavery. The effort to change the name of Lake Calhoun is in line with similar campaigns throughout the country to rename buildings, schools and streets based on the objectionable beliefs of their namesakes. 

I do not intend to vote for the name change. Unlike some of the opponents of the change, I'm not concerned that the proposed name is hard to pronounce and my decision doesn't hinge on the fact that homeowners near the lake are largely opposed to the change. I just don't believe this frenzy to rename structures, remove plaques or tear down monuments  accomplishes anything. 

The change will cause some problems - and cost - to the many business and organizations near the Lake that bear Calhoun's name. And it certainly will lead to a new push to rename Calhoun Parkway. But it won't change history or advance society in any way. 

Despite John C. Calhoun's many accomplishments (including the establishing of Fort Snelling), I don't make any effort to defent him. His views are fundamentally contrary to my belief that every human being is created in the image of God. 

And unfortunately, several great American leaders of the pas have held these same views, which were common in there time. 

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both slaveholders. Abraham Lincoln - the Great Emancipator - did not regard African Americans as socially equal to white people. Franklin Delano Roosevelt interned Japanese-Americans during World War II.

That's a lot of schools, streets, buildings and cities to rename. And, of course, Mount Rushmore will need to go.

And lest you think that is hyperbole, I saw it firsthand at the county board's public hearing on this issue. Most of the people in attendance supported the name change, but there were a few opponents. On such opponent argued sarcastically that he would not rest until every street and building in Minnesota was erased of name like Washington and Jefferson - and he received the most raucous cheers of any speaker. He was clearly being sarcastic; the crowd was not. 

Once we start this, it will not end. 

Slavery is the darkest stain on America's great history. Erasing names doesn't change that. Rather than focus on name changes, we should teach our children about America's history - both the great and the terrible. Trying to scrub any mention of leaders who supported what was sadly acceptable to many in their time accomplishes nothing other than further dividing our country.


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