Editor's note: One of the first people Bluestem interviewed for our series of posts about supporters of the freedom to marry was Naomi Wente, a gifted University of Minnesota--Morris senior. Wente graduated from the U this weekend.
We reached out to Naomi's mother to see if she and Naomi's father might be interested in being interviewed for a post that shared their views on tomorrow's historic vote on the Dibble marriage equality bill in the Minnesota state senate, the last step before the measure goes to Governor Mark Dayton's desk. The goal would be to appeal to Senator Dave Senjem to join Senator Branden Petersen (R-Andover) in voting for marriage equality.
This is her response.
Dear Senator Senjem,
This past week has been important to us as parents for two reasons. First, our daughter, Naomi Wente, graduated from college yesterday. Naomi has been recognized by many for her strong passion for helping others here locally and internationally. At the age of 14, she was recognized for her work in Cambodia. She led a campaign to help keep girls in school called: One Toilet at a Time. The idea was to help girls overcome the problem of the lack of sanitation. She wanted to take away even one reason for girls not going to school. Yesterday, our grown daughter, no longer a girl, achieved her goal: a college degree!
Your notes of congratulations have been sent for her national awards, state service learning projects, and international competitions. She has a photograph of you and her after receiving the Olmsted County Youth Commission Award. I am thinking that as you did for her high school graduations, you and your office will be sending congratulations to graduating seniors again this year.
We hope that one day she might get a chance to say congratulations to you -- congratulations for standing on the side of dignity, justice and joy. When I met you in the state capitol a few weeks ago, and in a letter last week, I shared with you the story of Naomi wondering if she would ever hear the word, "Congratulations" at her wedding. Our amazing daughter who has motivated so many to join her in her quest for justice over these years is now needing your support and motivation to support her -- to support her in her drive to see marriage equality in Minnesota.
Tomorrow we could do just that -- we could shake your hand and say congratulations to you for taking a strong stand on supporting Marriage for all.
Mark and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in just over a month. We have been privileged to live our lives with two children who have enriched our lives. Mark and I have brought both children to church from cradle to adulthood. We have volunteered with them for local events as well as internationally in Cambodia. Our family has stood up for human rights together -- all four of us speaking at hundreds of schools, churches, community groups and organizations as well as academic conferences. People have told us how fortunate we are that our family is so strong and have asked us why our kids are so amazing. We share that while we have our own ups and downs, we are so proud of our children. I believe it is due to our deep faith -- and our charge, as Christians, to live the word of Jesus. Because our faith calls us to be faithful to each other in our marriage, we hope Naomi will have a chance to do so through marriage should she find someone to share her life with as well.
Thank you for your consideration. I interviewed you 8 years ago for the Post Bulletin. You told me then that the hardest thing in your job was finding that supposed black and white area in social issues. More recently, at the Lobby Day three weeks ago, you shared with me that so many young people seem to have a different view about homosexuality. I think the youth of today are connected to their world like no other generation. They see oppression; they know injustice when they see it. Help us to help them say congratulations to you for voting on the side of justice.
Thank you from the voices of rural America. In rural Minnesota this issue impacts us greatly.
Dodge Center, Minnesota
Photos: Mark and Lori Halverson-Wente in a Scandinavian church. Photo by Naomi Wente (above); Lori Halverson-Wente (adult on left) and her daughter Naomi (foreground, right) with Cambodian girls. Photo by Trisha Greenlee (below).
This original story is underwritten by a sponsorship by Minnesotans United for All Families.