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The power of storytelling


Josh Kramer, executive vice president and general manager, NDAREC

Storytelling, I would argue, is one of the most powerful tools we have, as humans. Our voices can be used for good. Our experience can be a lesson for others.

Every so often, a story comes along with such perspective that it challenges us to pause, think and appreciate. For me, this issue of North Dakota Living did just that, thanks in great measure to the two men on the cover of this magazine, Henry and Abdirahim.

Their personal journeys – that of bravery, compassion and humility – to find peace, safety, security and honest work is nothing short of inspirational. Forced from their homelands due to war and poverty, Henry and Abdirahim are embodiments of the “American Dream,” and thus, represent “North Dakota living” in all its finest points.

In all honestly, I read, and reread, this story a number of times, often overcome with emotion. It left me wondering, “How is it that those who have endured such hardship and loss can now have such a sense of optimism and gratitude?”

New Americans seem to have an overwhelming appreciation for what is sometimes forgotten by those of us who are born here. It is an important reminder of just how fortunate we are to live in a country that prioritizes quality of life, education, infrastructure and safety. And it is critical that we continue to invest in our future, care for one another and participate in our communities, our government and (of course, I’m going to say it) our cooperatives.

North Dakota’s electric cooperatives are diverse. We have members who live on farms, and those who are urban apartment dwellers. Some were born in North Dakota, while others weren’t even born in the United States. Open membership – a tenant of the cooperative principles – allows all persons, regardless of gender, race, religion, political affiliation or social identifiers, to take part in their co-op.

Cally Peterson, our North Dakota Living editor, came to me the day after she wrapped up her interviews for this story and expressed some difficulty she was having.

“I just feel this enormous responsibility to tell (Henry’s and Abdirahim’s) stories with the justice they have earned and the respect they deserve,” she said. “I need to get this right.”

The responsibility to tell these stories is one we all share. Each month through North Dakota Living, we are charged with telling our unique cooperative story. Henry and Abdirahim are part of our cooperative story. You are, too.

In closing, I want to thank Abdirahim and Henry – and the thousands of others like them – who courageously tell their stories. I am proud of our collective story, as Americans, as North Dakotans and (of course) as co-op members.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727; email to