Live from General Assembly . . . Al Franken
General Assembly was visited by several Minnesota elected officials this week, including Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (a Unitarian Universalist) and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. A third official made a surprise visit Sunday afternoon––well, a surprise to delegates anyway. Moderator Gini Courter interrupted a debate in plenary about censuring Israel over the blockade of Palestine, to introduce the Rev. Meg Riley, the UUA’s Director of Advocacy and Witness. She in turn introduced U.S. Sen. Al Franken, of Minnesota.
Franken, who was cheered wildly by the assembly, spoke for about 10 minutes. He said he changed from what he had planned to talk about. “Your church is so cool that I decided to talk about religion. And about God.”
He told a story about his father, saying that when he was dying he allowed the local rabbi to visit him so that the rabbi would feel better. Franken said he asked the rabbi some time later what he and his dad talked about. “Oh he just tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible,” the rabbi said.
“That was my dad,” said Franken. He said his father went to temple mainly for social reasons and for sermons about “how Jews not only have to be just, but do justice.”
Franken added, “That’s pretty much what I try to do in the Senate.” He said his father saw God not as a person, but “behind everything, including nature. It wasn’t very different from what our founding fathers believed.”
He said his son Joe was asked once why he was so nice. He said, `I think it has something to do with my grandpa.’ To me that’s what God is. God is my dad in my son,” said Franken, choking up a bit.
“So to be just and good is what I try to do in my work every day, whether it be about immigration or GLBT rights. I want to thank you for being the kind of church that embraces all different kinds of beliefs and believes in social justice. You are my favorite kind of church. Thank you.” As he left the platform to wild applause again, Courter added, “Senator Franken, I think you are our favorite kind of senator.”
And then it was back to the debate on Israel.