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Minnesota: Full of niceness, good education, sports

About a month ago, Detroit Lakes celebrated Minnesota's 150th birthday by becoming, for one day, the State Capital. That was when I should have written about Minnesota's sesquicentennial, while the festivities were in full swing and the state (and town) pride at it's most intense, but I didn't; must have forgotten.

However, I feel an obligation to approach the subject of one of Minnesota's most important birthdays before 2009, when it really is too late. Minnesota's birthday does, after all, last all year. I guess the yearlong birthday is just one of those privileges that come with being a state.

Minnesota's reputation throughout the Union is very interesting and sometimes contradictory. The people (and in describing any state, you must start with the people) are just hard to figure out.

We're known throughout the world for our outstanding educational facilities, and have pioneered many advances in science, technology, and, thanks mostly to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, medicine. But at the same time, and thanks to Garrison Keillor and the blockbuster movie Fargo, Minnesotans are stereotyped as Scandinavians who think ketchup is too spicy for human consumption, talk like they have tater tots stuffed up their nostrils, and refuse to go outside if it's hotter than 75 degrees.

We're not really like that, right? Right. However, there is one stereotype that Minnesotans have which is actually true: "Minnesota Nice." For example, my 85-year-old grandma makes it especially clear that when she lived in Texas, she had one good neighbor, and now, when she lives in Detroit Lakes, she has one bad neighbor (who really, to be truthful, isn't really that bad).

This "Minnesota Nice" phenomenon was especially apparent during last year's collapsing of the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis. People that came upon the scene of the collapsed bridge jumped into the dangerous waters without hesitation, pulling people who had fallen in out and saving countless lives in the process.

I am proud of those valiant heroes who put the lives of other people they most likely didn't know before their own, and hope that they were rewarded greatly for their heroism.

In spite of this, the people of Minnesota have, throughout the years, taken great steps to further the cause of this U.S. of A. For example, the Minnesota 1st Infantry, during the Civil War, held off the Confederacy until reinforcements could arrive at Gettysburg.

It was a suicide mission, as the enemy drastically outnumbered the boys from Minnesota and the 1st ended up losing 82 percent of its men, but it was a successful suicide mission, nonetheless. Had it not been for the Minnesota 1st Infantry, Gettysburg probably would have been won by the Confederates. And since Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, it is arguable, but still possible, that had it not been for the 1st Minnesota, we'd all be singing Dixie.

On a more peaceful note, Minnesota's educational system has established itself as very competitive. Our largest college, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, has one of the premier agricultural programs in the world, evidenced by the fact that it is constantly inventing new varieties of the apple. Carleton College draws high achievers from all over to the medium-sized town of Northfield. And finally, Mayo Medical School, is considered by many to be one of the nation's foremost institutions for people who decide to specialize in medicine.

To go in a very different direction, Minnesota has several professional sports teams. Well, come to think of it, maybe I'd best not mention them.

I am proud to have been born and raised in this beautiful state, and am continually fascinated by how much we have achieved. There's no place in the world I'd have rather grown up in. Happy birthday, Minnesota!

Nathan Kitzmann will be a sophomore at Detroit Lakes High School this fall.