Small towns are special. They appear in personal blogs, trip advice sites, and everything related to road trips. They endear themselves to historical buffs and qualify for lists for any number of reasons—funny names, local industries, notable residents or festivals—you name it. Minnesota is full of such special places.

The hall is impressive: two-stories high with a cast-steel ceiling, semicircular, and everywhere you look is a marble column lining the perimeter. This chamber is known as the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol and this is where you will find two of your own.

Life on the American frontier required a keen sense of adventure and vision. Travel was difficult, living was a challenge, adjusting to a town-in-the-making was, well, an adjustment, and being prepared for the unexpected was a luxury most could not afford. Even so, the appeal to many was strong and come they did. John Wesley North was one of those drawn to the open spaces and natural beauty of Minnesota.

Most schools today have a vision for educating their students, a statement coupled with their mission, beliefs, and strategies to accomplish their lofty goals. They spend much time with the help of community members to develop meaningful ideas that will impact their families and neighborhoods. They, as a school, want people to associate their vision with their school. In the mid-1900s, no educator talked about a mission or vision for their school.

James Lileks of the Star Tribune thinks that "every town should have a motto. Something to put on a sign on the outskirts" of town, something that expresses the aspirations and beliefs of its residents. I agree. Take Northfield, for example. It reads, Cows, Colleges, and Contentment, first adopted in 1914.

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