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A pajama party at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport inadvertently helped launch R.T. Rybak’s political career (imagine a rumba line one hundred protesters long chanting, “We deserve to sleep, hey!”), but his earliest lessons in leadership occurred during his childhood. Growing up in a middle-class neighborhood, attending private school with students who had much more than he did, spending evenings at his family’s store in an area where people lived with much less, he witnessed firsthand the opportunity and injustice of the city he called home.
In a memoir that is at once a political coming-of-age story and a behind-the-scenes look at the running of a great city, the three-term mayor takes readers into the highs and lows and the daily drama of a life inextricably linked with Minneapolis over the past fifty years. With refreshing candor and insight, Rybak describes his path through journalism, marketing, and community activism that led to his unlikely (to him, at least) primary election—on September 11, 2001. His personal account of the challenges and crises confronting the city over twelve years, including the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge, the rising scourge of youth violence, and the bruising fight over a ban on gay marriage (with Rybak himself conducting the first such ceremony at City Hall on August 1, 2013), is also an illuminating, often funny depiction of learning the workings of the job, frequently on the fly, while trying to keep up with his most important constituency, his family.
As bracing as the “fresh air” campaign that swept him into office, Rybak’s memoir is that rare document from a politician: one more concerned with the people he served and the issues of his time than with burnishing his own credentials. As such, it reflects what leadership truly looks like.
About the Author
R.T. Rybak has lived his entire life in Minneapolis. Before his twelve years as mayor he was a journalist, publisher, Internet strategist, and marketing consultant. He now leads Generation Next, a public–private coalition that helps improve academic outcomes for children of color. He is a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and senior advisor to Living Cities, and he has taught the course Mayor 101 at the University of Minnesota.
"There are four types of political memoirs, depending on whether or not the politician was any good and whether or not the politician can write. There is much to be learned from all four, but only one type can be recommended with enthusiasm. A skilled journalist before he became a great mayor, R.T. Rybak has given us a story that deserves the attention of all those who enjoy good governance and good reading."—Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time
"This is a fascinating look into the personal and political life of one of the best big city mayors in the U.S. R.T. Rybak, a leader of the American Progressive Movement, started out as a Nixon Republican and became a public servant known for his honesty and his willingness to tackle the really tough problems of urban America. It's a great read."—Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont*
"R.T. Rybak's decision to return to writing is an enormous gift to us all. This book is a love letter to Minneapolis, and it tells the riveting story of what you must tackle to make and keep a city great."—Lizz Winstead, cocreator of The Daily Show
"It is a rare political book that makes us laugh out loud while also inviting us to examine the challenges of running a modern American city."—Michele Norris, former host of NPR’s All Things Considered and founder of The Race Card Project
"In his dozen years as mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak was the poster child for ebullience, a fearless crowd-surfer. . . and an advocate for equality."—Star Tribune
"The job of building community is bigger and so much more complex than most people can imagine, and that shines through in Rybak’s vivid and honest stories."—Governing Magazine
"Innocuous, fairly interesting and often entertaining."—Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder