On July 18, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska’s first district hosted the Ambassador from Liechtenstein, Claudia Fritsche, in a visit to our state.Fritsche spent many years as UN ambassador from her principality and is Liechtenstein’s first ambassador with a permanent mission to the U.S. She has established an embassy in Washington D.C.
Nearly a year ago, I surprised Fortenberry with an apple praline pie at a town hall meeting in Lincoln. I made a public presentation at the end of the meeting, thanking him on behalf of the Grandmother's Apple Pie Brigade for his work as a Climate Hero.
Fortenberry has long been a trusted ally of the progressive agriculture cohort in the struggle to increase renewable energy in this country, especially on bio-fuels such as ethanol and wind energy.
Last week, Dan McGuire, the American Corn Growers Foundation CEO and longtime Nebraska facilitator of the federal Wind for Schools program announced that funds for that project had expired and appeared politically dead on arrival, but had been restored, with $500,000 in the proposed House budget, thanks to the efforts of Fortenberry and his staff.
If all goes well, Senate Democrats may secure a full $1 million (pocket change in term of the national budget) for this exemplary project, which both educates and powers U.S. schools.
Nebraska is first among states in the program, with 28 total installations at K-12 schools, as well as Southeast Community College and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
Me, I always wanted to live in a Golden Age.
Time has taught me that golden ages may be local, even relative, and they require people of good will to ignore their differences in order to pursue common goals on larger issues that can and must be addressed -- issues such as climate mitigation and fair trade. Today, the only member of my state's Congressional delegation strong enough and smart enough to see his way clear is Jeff Fortenberry, whom I think I may actually call, in truth, my friend.
All this I explained to Her Excellency when I met her in the Congressman's garden.
Her eyes dilated appreciatively at the sight of my golden pecan-studded apple pie.
With a little more self-consciousness, I might have stuck a coneflower in the middle, and made some quip about the Liechtenstein crown.
I had also practiced a hopeful set piece about the new Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen, the first woman in that seat and a great Keynesian economist, who made her maiden speech at a housing project in Chicago, where she spoke about the role of the Fed in creating jobs.
But, first things first. No diluting the message, right? So, I kept my profile low and took the Congressman his pie. It was another apple praline pie, referencing our common Louisiana connections and our bipartisan patriotism.
He recognized my venerable aluminum cake carrier, as my son rolled me up in my wheelchair to greet him and the Ambassador.
He grinned and turned to his wife Celeste.
“Sally's brought me another pie. And it's for me, not the kids," he said.
They have five daughters, two of whom are de-tasseling corn this summer.
Celeste raised her beautiful eyebrows.
"Do I get a piece?" she asked.
(Sally Herrin, PhD, is a Nebraska writer and advocate for agriculture, trade and energy policies.)