MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz delivered his third State of the State address Sunday from his former high school classroom and said brighter days have arrived and "normalcy is on the horizon" as a substantial portion of the population is being vaccinated against the coronavirus and businesses start to fully reopen.
The first-term Democrat gave the speech from his old social studies classroom at Mankato West High School, where students have returned in-person after public health restrictions due to the pandemic prevented them from doing so.
"Normalcy is on the horizon, and Minnesotans are eager to embrace the simple pleasures of life," Walz said in a roughly 20-minute speech recorded Sunday afternoon. "Whether it's that morning rush out the door to school, a warm cup of coffee with a friend, or for me, the busy chatter of a high school hallway between classes, we vow to never to take them for granted again."
About 1.6 million people in the state have received at least one dose of the vaccine, or over 25% of the total population. Over 80% of those 65 years of age or older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to data from the state Department of Health.
Walz had announced last week that everyone 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine starting Tuesday. He used his address to ask all state residents to receive their vaccine when possible, the Star-Tribune reported.
"Getting vaccinated is how we end this pandemic," he said.
While Walz focused on the pandemic during his speech, the governor also addressed the trial of Derek Chauvin, which is scheduled to begin on Monday. Chauvin was the white police officer who pressed his knee against the neck of George Floyd last May. Floyd, a Black man, was held face-down on the ground handcuffed and said he couldn't breathe, and he eventually grew still. Body camera footage indicates Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
In his speech, Walz referenced a speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave in the Mankato West High School auditorium in 1961, where the civil rights activist preached about the practice of using nonviolence to protest segregation.
"As the trial of Derek Chauvin is underway, tensions and emotions will understandably run high," Walz said. "Please, Minnesotans, make your voices heard. Practice your First Amendment right — but please, Minnesotans, heed Dr. King's advice that nonviolence is the only way to truly move hearts and create change."
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