The Character Movement

Minnesota Kind Button

What does it mean to be Minnesota Kind?

For nine years, Youth Frontiers has hosted its Ethical Leadership Luncheon, an event that attracts more than 550 of Minnesota’s brightest leaders to discuss fostering character in our communities today and building the next generation of ethical leaders. Last Thursday, Tim Welsh, Vice Chairman of Consumer Banking at U.S. Bank, led us in a discussion about how our community would experience positive growth if we went beyond Minnesota Nice to be Minnesota Kind. Here are some of our favorite moments of the event:

1. Youth Frontiers Musician Sebastian Davin and YCorps members Traiveon Dunlap, Dahlia Jones and Genevieve Kalland performed “Stand by Me.”

2. Joe Cavanaugh, Founder and CEO of Youth Frontiers, shared about YF and our core purpose:

“Treating each other with kindness, dignity and respect is not some value system that applies only in the Midwest Heartland. It’s not some way of Minnesota just being nice. It’s an issue of human decency amongst all peoples, cultures and religions.”

To illustrate this point, Joe recounted his meeting with the former President of South Africa F.W. deKlerk. They discussed how deKlerk worked with Nelson Mandela to dismantle Apartheid — accomplished only because they strove to meet the needs of the other, to help each other “win.” Through repeated acts of courage and kindness, they fought to help each other effect change their spheres of influence because they knew that was the only way they could start mending the great racial divide in their country.

3. We announced our 2017 Character Award Winner, Frendarious Willis, and presented him with a $5,000 college scholarship funded by Luther Automotive Group.

Assistant Principal Sherri Schendzielos nominated Willis for his everyday leadership — evident in Coon Rapids High School’s hallways, classrooms and community spaces as well as on the football field and wrestling mat. Willis actively improves his school community by participating as a small-group leader on Youth Frontiers retreats and as a Link Leader for Coon Rapids, helping new students acclimate to the high school. Beyond these organized leadership opportunities, Willis truly shines in all of his unplanned interactions with others.

“Kindness matters. Those random acts of kindness, like helping someone out in the lunch line, or helping out the new kid at school. It’s the small stuff that no one’s going to notice, but it impacts that person,” said Willis.

At the event, one of Youth Frontiers’ interns interviewed Willis. Willis advised the crowd to lead with empathy and “talk with people — not at people.”

4. Tim Welsh, Vice Chairman of Consumer Banking at U.S. Bank, challenged us to be “Minnesota Kind.”

Welsh posited that as a community, we can be better than “Minnesota Nice.” He challenged us to rise above the colloquial term — often used to describe passive aggressive behavior — to instead be genuinely Minnesota Kind. While there is nothing wrong with being nice, he explained, being kind has a much more profound impact.

He recalled some of the most transformative moments of his life — from his adoption as a child to the dramatic cultural shift he helped lead at the global consulting firm, McKinsey. The common factor? Kindness.

“Kindness is an action. It takes courage, humility and empathy,” he said. It values what unites us above what divides us. It transforms. In short, kindness is love, Welsh said. 

Thanks to all the generous leaders and sponsors who made our 2017 Ethical Leadership Luncheon a reality. We are so grateful for the support of our community and their commitment to building the next generation of leaders.

Photo and video credit (from top to bottom): Braddon OlsonBraddon OlsonAdam Iverson PhotographyBraddon OlsonAdam Iverson Photography.

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