EDITORIAL: St. Peter's embrace of diversity pays off

·2 min read

Jul. 17—The strategy is straightforward: Sharing conversations and stories connects people.

That's what the organizers of the new nonprofit the St. Peter Good Neighbor Diversity Council counted on at their first community event in May. The plan worked. As one participant remarked, the experience was so satisfying she couldn't stop smiling on her drive home.

When those 40 or so people gathered around tables in the St. Peter Community Center to chat, they didn't attend with agendas, follow rules or stick to outlined topics. They just got to know one another.

The same diplomatic tactics that can stop countries from fighting one another by keeping lines of communication open and fostering understanding also can work at a more local level, drawing together members of a community and creating bonds. You don't have to be like someone to appreciate and respect them.

St. Peter, like much of Minnesota, is seeing its population become more diverse. Instead of worrying about change and losing its old identity, the community, with help of the Diversity Council, is embracing the variety of people who help make their community richer. The council serves as a role model of that philosophy by choosing leaders who reflect it. Ordained Lutheran pastor William Nelsen and Mohamed Abdulkadir, leader of St. Peter's mosque, are co-presidents.

A richer community means culturally speaking, but also in an economic sense. People of color will be filling the jobs of the future in many sectors of the state. The number of jobs held by those reporting as white from 2010 to 2020 increased by 2.4% (about 54,000 jobs), while jobs held by those reporting as a race other than white increased by 53.5% (about 142,800 jobs), according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Without that growing, diverse labor force, Minnesota's economy would not have been able to expand as it did.

But beyond the numbers, St. Peter's efforts to embrace diversity are steps in the direction of not just accepting reality but of welcoming it with open arms.