"A Prairie Home Companion" is a Saturday night tradition — Garrison Keillor's weekly two-hour conversation with his more than 4 million listeners worldwide. The radio show, conducted before a live studio audience, is celebrating 30 years on the air. NBC's Brian Williams sat down with the host to find out what makes Minnesota's people, and its politics, so unique.
Brian Williams: So what is a Minnesotan?
Garrison Keillor: Well you should be self-effacing, this would be a big thing. And you should be a hard worker — and if you do, that makes up for a lot of personality problems and bad looks and you know, thorny personality.
And it helps if you like it cold. The local meteorologist says about the next few days "It's going to get as cold as it ever gets here."
Keillor: You step out your door to start your car and go to the office — you are no longer an office-worker. You are Admiral Byrd in the Antarctic. You are a hero.
Minnesotans embrace the cold, just as they famously embrace Election Day.
Williams: The highest city turnout in the nation this last election was Duluth, at 90 percent. What does that say about the people in this state?
Keillor: For one thing it says that we have same-day registration in Minnesota, so people who are inspired at the last minute — the morning of the Tuesday — can find their way down to that school or church where the flag is flying outside, go in, present their driver's license and vote. That's an amazing thing.
Minnesotans love voting the same way some of them love running for office, over and over again.
Williams: Is there a valor among those Minnesotans who never quite grasp the brass ring in politics? Harold Stassen, ran, I think a hundred times for president. Plus, the "Happy Warrior" Hubert Humphrey. And Walter Mondale.
Keillor: In the end, it's the tradition that matters. It's the tradition of public service that matters, and that carries on.
Williams: A while back you came out as a Democrat. Why did you go and do a thing like that?
Keillor: I felt that everybody needed a real election in 2004 — a good election. And a good campaign is one in which all sorts of people pitch in. And I thought that we got that.
Keillor says, as the inauguration approaches, this is the time to sit back and watch the process unfold.
Keillor: I believe in having a moment in the country when we put aside some of the harsh jagged things that we've said — always willing to pick them up again of course — but we put them aside and we watch, we hope and we wait.
And we listen — every Saturday night — to a man who knows the way to his listener's hearts is through their ears.
Keillor: My stage is radio. It's so intimate it’s embarrassing to think about. I lie there across the tops of their heads leaning down and whispering into their ears. If I ever stopped to think about it, it would terrify me and I would have to quit and do something else.
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