Josh Kramer

We have reached the end of co-op annual meeting season. A majority of electric cooperatives in North Dakota held their annual meetings in June. It’s a chance to get together with your fellow co-op members, enjoy a good meal, ask questions of your board and management, learn about your cooperative’s financial health and most importantly carry out the business of your cooperative, including director elections and considering bylaws amendments.

I put on a lot of miles in June, trying to get to as many co-op meetings as possible. I like my job, so I won’t give you my power rankings to reveal which cooperative serves the best meal. Each cooperative’s annual meeting, however, has unique attributes that make it special.

It’s not a ballgame or a movie, but you can enjoy a bag of fresh popped popcorn during Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative’s annual meeting. Slope Electric Cooperative members stayed for bingo after this year’s business meeting. Petting zoos offer something for the kids at many co-op annual meetings. And my “hometown co-op,” KEM Electric Cooperative, still serves kuchen the way my wife and I (and all of Emmons County) did at our wedding (and is aptly called “wedding kuchen”).

While the meetings are unique to each cooperative, they share commonalities. Every co-op annual meeting begins with the national anthem. With our hands over our hearts, we salute our flag. It is a symbol of our great nation, and it belongs to each one of us. We are co-op members, and we are Americans.

We will see a lot of red, white and blue this month, as our country celebrates Independence Day. There will be flags waving in parades, on boats in the water and held on horseback at rodeos.

But will you see beyond the red, white and blue? Will you consider why one flag holds so much meaning to generations of people? Will you understand why only one flag must always fly higher than the rest?

On page 6 of this issue of North Dakota Living, you’ll find a story about an exciting opportunity for local museums to digitize their collections and give them exposure to the world. If you dig deeper, you’ll find it’s also a story about new Americans. About German-Russian immigrants who settled in southcentral North Dakota more than 100 years ago, seeking land and safety. Who lived in fear they would have to return to a life of oppression in Russia. Who found a better life for their families here in North Dakota.

I can’t help but think about what the American flag symbolized for them.

My German-Russian ancestors weren’t lucky enough to be born in this country. But I was, like many of you are.

Our challenge is to see beyond the red, white and blue. To consider the deeper meaning. To respect why one flag matters most and must always fly highest. And never forget: It belongs to each one of us.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at