Speaker focuses on reality and social discourse

Describes herself as a realist

NEW ULM — A St. Paul woman involved with leadership, diversity-related issues and healthcare disparities, addressed 130 Minnesota League of Women Voters (LWV) Convention attendees at the Best Western Plus Saturday.

“I’m an attorney and a realist, so I want to focus on reality,” said Valerie Jensen, vice president of Planned Parenthood North Central States.

“We are living in a time of unraveling social discourse across differences,” Jensen said. “We deal with unprecedented global, national and local social change.”

Jensen said the (COVID-19) Pandemic forever changed how we interact with each other and how we think about things.

“We’re supposedly living an a post-Pandemic world. I still find that a little bit hard to believe,” she added. “People are still dying of COVID. People are dealing with the sorrow of losing people (to COVID). It wasn’t just a blip in history. It’s something we’ll deal with for a long time.”

Jensen said we’re dealing with increased societal polarization. She said changing cultural norms have eroded communication within and across communities.

“Every day I choose to go into the office, I deal with people who have beliefs that because of where I work, I’m a bad person,” said Jensen. “And that if I chose to get care there, I’m immoral. I can’t emphasize enough how critical that is and how much I feel that as someone who works with civil rights, focused on race and how it impacts the system.”

Jensen said she grew up in Golden Valley in the only black family in the neighborhood.

“Our house was egged. Our cars were hit by tomatoes. I was called the n-word at school,” she said. “My kids went to school in St. Paul in a much more diverse world than I did,” Jensen said.

She said every leadership journey deals with who you are and where you come from.

“Share with one another. A Harvard study showed a diversity and inclusion program failed because people failed to get to know one another beyond their resumes and other reasons,” said Jensen. “I have a transgender son. My grandchild was born female but identifies as male and presents as male.”

Jensen said she was adopted and learned to deal with bias including those that categorize people and that prefer those who look like them.

“You get to know people by getting to know their culture and understanding the differences they have,” said Jensen. “We all have biases. Look at what you and others bring to the table.”

She urged people to build relationships before asking someone to join organizations.

“Build a trusting relationship first,” Jensen said.

Thirty-five Minnesota Leagues conduct non-partisan candidate forums and provide critical information to help voters make informed decisions.

Minnesota has a number of new laws that expand voting rights.

Residents with felony convictions who have left prison now have the right to vote. This includes those on probation or parole, or owe restitution. It is best to register before Election Day, but it is not required, according to the LWV.

In 2024, Minnesota will establish automatic voter registration. It means when you provide information to the state when applying for a driver’s license or in certain other transactions, you are also registered to vote, unless you choose to opt out.

Now 16 and 17-year-old Minnesotans can submit a voter registration form, and have their voter registration take affect on their 18th birthday.

For more information, visit www.lwv.org and the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State at mnvotes.gov or call 1-877-600-VOTE.


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