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Bill Butcher, Bismarck, Published July 14 2012

Achievement deserves honor

Norwegians and Germans from Russia settlers in North Dakota will do anything to help one another survive adversity but do not like their peers to rise above the pack. If one of them does excel but stumbles, they have plenty of help to bring them down.

The Norwegian Winter Olympics team had no medal contenders over the years and a spokesman attributed that to “Jam Stelling,” wherein everyone is encouraged to achieve to a common level but not aspire to excel; one should not attempt to rise above his neighbors. Germans from Russia report similar thinking.

I have thought a lot about this, and it helps explain a lot about life, commerce and politics in North Dakota. I now see it manifest itself, in an odd way, in the 2012 North Dakota Senate race.

Rick Berg grew up bailing hay, working with livestock, and earned an ag economics degree. Heidi Heitkamp was raised in Mantador, and she earned a law degree. They each had a vision of success and pursued it, married physicians, have been successful politically, and became millionaires.

I see political ads berating Berg for being a millionaire, but not so many leveled against Heitkamp for her similar financial success. So the difference is? Well, I guess it is that one is a Republican and one is a Democrat. But why should that comparison make a difference?

My point is that we all should celebrate the successes of our fellow citizens and not berate any of them for legitimate achievement. Further, when deciding for whom to vote, the determining factors should be idea/solution-based and not who has or has not acquired the most money. Even given the dubious merits of “Jam Stelling,” I don’t think that anyone wants a mediocre underachiever representing us in Washington.