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Dairy Queen in the Body Politic
Jul 26, 2012
Today (Thursday, July 26) is Dairy Queen's Miracle Treat Day. This nationwide event raises money for Children's Miracle Network, which helps local families cover costs when they have to take their kids to the hospital for serious injuries and illnesses. You buy a Blizzard, and the money goes to CMN. Pretty cool.
The Madison Dairy Queen has led the nation in Miracle Treat Day fundraising every year since 2006. Madison DQ owner DeLon Mork has found the right combination of promotion, hustle, and heart to distinguish his store as a Blizzard powerhouse.
The focus of Miracle Treat Day is helping kids and families in need, not scoring political points. Yet this convergence of business and public service carries some useful political lessons. Let me pull out my left-right poli-goggles and see what Miracle Treat Day at the Madison Dairy Queen says about how we interact in the body politic:
1. Leaning Right: Corporations. I occasionally grumble that big chain-store corporations harm small communities, killing local businesses and reducing opportunities for independent entrepreneurship. Dairy Queen is a big corporation, but its franchise model seems to leave plenty of room for local entrepreneurship. Mork has corporate rules to follow, but he's been free to develop his own marketing for Miracle Treat Day. DQ bosses have come to Madison to learn from Mork's success. Mork's achievements, not just on Miracle Treat Day but in year-round business, have built him a platform from which to act as a community leader. Contra Romney, corporations are not people... but they do help people do some good things.
2. Leaning Left: Cooperation. Miracle Treat Day exists because Dairy Queen and the rest of us recognize that unexpected medical costs are more than pretty much any family can bear on their own. Rugged individualism doesn't pay most medical bills; cooperative effort does.
3. Leaning Left: Communitarianism. Madison rightly pats Mork on the back for his efforts. Mork consistently responds to such praise by pointing to all the other people who make the Dairy Queen's success possible. He lauds his staff, who hustle all day to feed a line of people that circles the store and spills back out the door. He thanks a community that turns out in droves to support the cause. Mork might paraphrase President Obama and say of Miracle Treat Day, "I didn't build that; the community did." Like Mork, the entire town takes greatest pride in the things we do together. We tout that togetherness, downplaying our selfish interests and emphasizing the good that comes from community effort.
But as anyone in Madison will tell you on Miracle Treat Day, the big debate is not between Left and Right. It's between Oreo and Choco Cherry Love. Grab a friend from the opposite party, and share a warm fuzzy Blizzard!
Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and is currently teaching French at Spearfish High School.