Senator Amy Klobuchar recalls bike-riding, pickle speeches and lollipop drives in her childhood hometown.
From her early days learning how to ride a bike on a Plymouth dirt road, to her graduation as valedictorian of Wayzata High School, Amy Klobuchar opens up about her Plymouth upbringing and how it shaped her into the political dynamo she’s become today.
Plymouth Magazine: What made Plymouth a great place to grow up?
Amy Klobuchar: My parents moved to Plymouth in its early stages. Their house was one of the first built, and it was that neighborhood that made Plymouth a great place to live. My mom died a few years ago, but even today, a lot of the people I grew up with still live on Oakview Lane. It was a close-knit community—rare that anyone moved from.
PM: How did growing up in Plymouth influence your career path?
AK: I was very involved in school activities, including the student council. My biggest achievement was starting the first Lifesaver/lollipop drive to raise money for the senior prom when I was a junior. We had record sales so high that they were able to have their prom at the former Leamington Hotel. Public service was also important to me. I worked on a few campaigns in high school, including for Emily Anne Staples, who was one of the first women in the legislature—also from Plymouth! I got involved, not in a heavy way in politics, but mostly because I wanted to do things for the community.
PM: Did you have a particular teacher who inspired her?
AK: My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Kalionen. She had bright-red hair, and she taught me how to be confident in public speaking. One time, we had to make commercials, and I dressed up like a pickle, so there I am standing there in my pickle costume doing my presentation on pickles and she was standing in the back yelling, “I can’t hear you! You need to be a loud.” She pushed high achievement, and that made a big impression on me.
PM: What is your favorite Plymouth pastime?
AK: My favorite thing to do was (is) bike. My parents got divorced when I was 16, and bicycling was something my dad and I would do together all the time. It was a lot of fun. On one particular trip, when I was 14, my dad and I bicycled from Plymouth to Ely in two days. The wind was at our backs so we were able to go 140 miles in one day. It was a nightmare, actually. My friends and I did a lot of fun creative things, too, like starting a babysitting club to earn money. My best friend Amy and I actually earned enough money to take the Greyhound bus to see her grandparents in Kansas City, Missouri. We were only 12 years old, but our parents let us go.
PM: How did it feel to be named valedictorian of Wayzata High School? What was your speech about?
AK: It was an honor to be valedictorian, and I worked very hard to get there. It’s funny for me to look back on my speech, especially after speaking again at the 2013 Wayzata High School commencement at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. I remembered the feeling of standing on that stage the last time I gave a speech as valedictorian. I talked about seizing opportunity and helping others. I never really knew I was going to go into politics, but I ended up quoting Hubert Humphrey in my [valedictorian] speech, because he had died just a few weeks before our graduation. I talked about the power of good in making the world safer—and that our generation would have a large part to play in determining whether we would move forward as a country or not.
PM: How do you try to represent being from Plymouth and Minnesota when you are in Washington, D.C.?
AK: I come back to Minnesota nearly every weekend. One of the other ways I stay connected is I visit all 87 counties every year. I spend a lot of time in Minnesota, because I think it’s a danger to bury my head in the sand and stay in Washington. You have to come back, and I visit Plymouth whenever I can. I always look forward to the Music in Plymouth concert and parade.
PM: What do you miss most about Minnesota when you’re away?
AK: I miss the people. Minnesota Nice is not just a stereotype; when it comes down to it, people are nice. You don’t get to have those types of casual conversations all the time in Washington or other cities. We Minnesotans really look out for each other, and I notice that every time I come home.