You don’t give up.

Dr. Lawrence talks about his college experience.

Audio Chapters

EL:......And it was when I saw my two kids growing up that I realized that they really don’t have any future if I don’t do something, if I don’t break down some barriers, if I don’t tread some new paths, they won’t have anywhere to go. So that’s what got me going after I sobered up. And so I went to the Tribal College. I didn’t know about them; I didn’t even know we had a Tribal College, but I went to a career workshop and it was just high school students in there, and I told my wife I wanted to go check that out. I did notice that I was a man that was long on experience and I could do any amount of work that was put in front of me, but there was going to be a time when I wouldn’t be able to do that, and I wasn’t getting any younger, and one of those days these young men are going to be able to out-work me, and I won’t be needed anymore. And then I noticed another thing; the people that were getting paid and had security were the guys that were sitting behind the desk who we were working for and making rich. And so I said, I need to find myself a job like that. And so that’s why I decided to try school; going back to school. And I had only a ninth grade boarding school education, and that was Indian boarding school, which is about the equivalent of a seventh grade education. And that’s all I had when I went into that career fair and I saw all these kids in there. So I went back and talked to my wife and said, “We might as well go; there’s no place for me here.” And she said, “While you’re here, you might as well at least ask somebody and talk to somebody.” So I did. I went around to all these universities that had their booths there, and talked to them, and I could tell just by talking to them that there was no way I could fit in there. And one of the last places I went to said, “You know, you sound like you’d be a good candidate for Tribal College.” And I said, “I didn’t even know we had one.” And he said, “Yeah, that last booth over there is the Tribal College.” So I went over and talked to this Indian guy that I knew and he said, “Come on, we’ll get you enrolled, we’ll get you started.” And so I went on and enrolled and I met one of the board members as I was coming out, and she asked me if I was enrolling and I said, “Yeah, I’m going to try.” And she said, “You’ll be our first 4.0 graduate.” And that was encouraging for someone, and I didn’t even know if I could do college work, or could keep up with these kids, these younger people. And anyway, I started and I didn’t have any kind of formal background to draw from; I had to learn everything as I went. But I did it by using the work ethic that I had got as a young kid. You don’t give up. My dad said, “You don’t come out of that field until you’re done. If you start something, you finish it. If you don’t want to work, don’t go out there. But if you go out there, you stay out there until you finish it.” And I was thinking about that: While I’m enrolled, I started this; I’m going to have to do the best I can and see if I can make it. If I can’t, I have a standing philosophy that guides me in most things, and that is: if you always do the best you can, and if you always treat people right, your time will come. And so I went in with nothing more than that.

......I had a stats class, and if you can imagine taking a graduate, Doctorate-level stats class when you never even had algebra, you know what a difficulty that is.  Because I had no idea what this guy was writing on the board, or what he was talking about.  He’d start on the board and start going like – and I couldn’t follow him.  Twice I tried it; twice I dropped out so I wouldn’t get a grade.  And the third time I tried it I was getting ready to drop out again and I said, "I guess this is one thing I can’t do."And so I was going to drop out of that class, and as I was going across the campus I met this lady from Germany and we talked a little bit and then she asked me how things were going.  I didn’t tell her I was going to drop out, I just said, “Well, things aren’t going that good.”  And she said something that made the whole difference to me.  She said, “Sometimes it takes more fortitude than brains.”  And I was thinking about the four values that we have in our old culture, and one of them is knowledge, fortitude, wisdom and bravery.  And I thought to myself, I don’t know about the others, and I know I don’t have the knowledge, but I do have fortitude.  And so that kept me from dropping out.  

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Elden Lawrence Interviewer Deborah Locke made in New Ulm, MN | Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. You don’t give up. May 21, 2024.

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.