Few, if any, newborns in the whole of creation are more dependent than human babies, and that dependence lasts for many years. I recall the word, depend, so frequently used by my parents in my upbringing that I began to think it was my middle name.

To wit: “We depend upon you to hoe the garden weeds to increase our winter food supply. We depend upon you to watch your little sister, so she doesn’t get hurt. Yes, you may borrow our family car, but depend on you to bring it and yourself home safely.”

As a mid-teen, working next to my father on his onion farm in Southern Minnesota, I once told him his farming methods should give way to newer ones. He retorted, “If you are so smart, go out and paddle your own canoe.” I considered that option seriously.

The very next day in my uncle’s onion field, I observed a teenager about my age in the hot, hot sun, crawling on the ground, helping to harvest the onion crop by cutting off the onions with a sharp knife. Sweat, dust and grime covered his face and clothing.

He shared with me that he had quit school at age 16, was estranged from his family, ate canned foods only, washed his clothes in ditch or lake water and slept every night in his old, beat-up car. I concluded that independence comes with price tag — new obligations, risks, challenges, and rewards. (I made peace with my father.)

Dad and mom paid my college tuition, and as graduation neared, I told them at graduation I would like to study law, but dad said family savings now had to put my sister through college and that my younger brother was already doing my farm chores. In brief, time to paddle your own canoe.

I turned to teaching, which I enjoyed, and soon found my name on car payments, insurance premiums, grocery goods, rental charges, clothing expenses, dental bills with just quarters and dimes left over for tuition costs for part-time graduate study. I still depended upon a raft of other people and learned first-hand that interdependence is the mark of mature adulthood.

We Americans celebrate July 4, 1776, as our country’s Independence Day; it resulted in two wars with England, debt accumulation, new alliances and initial struggles with forms of governance. Our nation became a Republic and grew in territory, size of population (millions of new immigrants), and world influence and leadership in formation of the United Nations in 1945 with headquarters in New York City.

Huge changes have continued. Fourteen U.S. presidents have held office since 1945. Travel time between nations has been reduced from days to hours. Product labels in stores and marketplace now include countries from around the globe. Satellite technology and cell phones connect everyone (“haves” and “have nots”), and the migratory flow of people across borders reflects desperations and dreams of people across the world.

Scientists — with few exceptions — warn that climate change is real and that a world-wide unified effort must be made to avoid pollutants and their negative impact on food production, air and water purity, personal health, and (literally) human safety in low-lying coastal areas.

“Star Wars” movies used to be make-believe only, but modern-day rocket technology into outer space by multiple nations and the use of that same technology to threaten nations with nuclear war here on earth is not make-believe. Isolationistic thinking and related policies from past eras fit poorly with today’s current realities.

The international diplomacy needed to resolve these above issues requires expertise, trust-building, cooperation and great patience — statesmanship of the highest order. Interdependence is the road map for the 21st Century.

On Tuesday, March 3, we Minnesotans voted in our primary election, and on Tuesday, Nov. 3, we Americans will be voting for government officials at the local, state and national level who will be considering, acting and leading us on all the issues cited above — and more besides.

We will depend upon them to make wise decisions, but first we in our democracy, as American citizens, must depend upon one another to determine who can best lead and represent us — and vote accordingly.

Dr. Don Draayer is the former superintendent of Minnetonka Public Schools. He retired in 1995. He is a grandfather to five children.

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