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It’s Norwegian week in North Dakota

By Staff | Sep 24, 2010

It appears that the week of September 27 is Norwegian Week in North Dakota, with the Norsk Hostfest in Minot September 28-October 2 and an impressive Sevareid Symposium in Bismarck September 30-October 3.

The Hostfest is one of North Dakota’s major statewide entertainment events, this year featuring Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Daniel O’Donnell, the Gaither Vocal Band, The Four Tops, The Temptations and the Oak Ridge Boys, in addition to more acts on multiple stages, plus scores of demonstrations, displays and Scandinavian vending booths. It’s enough to make Norwegians homesick.

The crown prince of North Dakota’s Norwegians and the pride of Velva is Eric Sevareid, perhaps the best known of all of our native sons and daughters. Born into a Norwegian banking family in Velva in 1912, Sevareid started in print journalism in the University of Minnesota and Twin Cities newspapers and became an icon in television journalism.

His writing caught the eye of Edward R. Murrow who recruited him in 1939 to join a team in Europe reporting for the CBS network on World War II. His insightful nightly two-minute commentaries on CBS News won him a world-wide reputation as a brilliant analyst. I enjoyed hearing him pontificate, sometimes thinking that I was hearing Solomon reincarnated.

My personal contact with Sevareid occurred in 1962 when Governor Guy and I met him for lunch at the Mayflower Hotel in New York to propose that he come back to North Dakota and run for the U. S. Senate. He wisely declined. (I paid for the lunch so that I could claim that I bought lunch for Eric Sevareid. It was a waste of money because I never had the occasion to report this honor to anyone.)

Sevareid’s career with CBS ran from 1939 to 1977. He died in 1992 at the age of 79. While he did make special appearances after his retirement, most Americans lost sight of him 33 years ago when he left his nightly commentary on CBS.

Thirty-three years is a long time. Sevareid was too great a journalist and North Dakotan to let his memory fade in his home state. For that reason, a free public humanities symposium is being held September 30-October 3 at Bismarck State College, sponsored by KX News, Prairie Public Television, the North Dakota Humanities Council, The Dakota Institute and Bismarck State College.

Omdahl is a UND

professor emeritus in political science and a former lieutenant governor of

North Dakota.

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