BY DAVID TILSEN
To be interviewed by Laura Waterman Wittstock was like being listened to by a wise friend. Then, afterward, you listen and think, why did I say that? I didn’t plan to open up that much. Somehow Laura was able to do that with people. Without ever compromising her strong beliefs, she really knew how to listen and call on the openness in others. This skill, along with hard work, cutting intelligence and impeccable integrity, made her a leader, a power broker and an influencer for over 50 years.
I hope people remember her. She deserves some kind of permanent memorial. We have lost so many of the warriors of my generation, people who have made history, that I can’t help but remember my mother’s grief when this was happening to her. She would rage against my generation who thought that we had invented feminism, socialism, antiwar activism, counter culture and commitment. She wanted us to remember her generation and her parents’ generation and what they had given us. Laura’s death gives me the same rage.
Certainly, the students of Migizi will carry on. Those of us addicted to her radio show, First Person Radio, will keep the memories, and her book with Dick Bancroft about the history of AIM will live on. The City of Minneapolis, it seems to me, owes her a debt. She served on the Minneapolis Library Board and on so many different foundations and advisory committees that I don’t believe a complete list can ever be made. There are some people who just transcend the rest of us, whose smile, grit, determination and articulation have changed the world for the better.
I can’t help but quote from the great Minnesota poet Irene Paull, who was writing about another woman who changed the world:
If you walk with an air of easy grace
And hold your head up high.
Cherish her as you cherish the sea
And the Mountains that
climb the sky.