Duane Krohnke '61

  • Heather Riggs
    Heather: All right, go right ahead.
  • Duane Krohnke
    Duane: Hello, this is Duane Krohnke. I live in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, outside the Twin Cities.
  • Heather Riggs & Duane Krohnke
    Heather: Great. So is there something, is there a story that you came in wanting to share?Duane: Well, I was a student at Grinnell College 1957 through 1961. I came from the small town of Perry, Iowa, which is northwest of Des Moines. I was a History major with a lot of Political Science and Economics. The first semester of my junior year I went on the Washington Semester program at American University.Heather: Wow.Duane: And, came back and ran for Student Government president and won.Heather: Oh, wow.Duane: And that was really a turning point for me at the College. I emphasized the need for the this community to be involved in national issues, and the College rejoined the National Student Association. We sponsored students to go on bus rides to the south, at the time, 1960 era.
  • Duane Krohnke & Heather Riggs
    Duane: The most memorable academic experience of my time at Grinnell was the Political Economy Seminar my senior year. We had professors Jack Dawson from Economics, Joe Wall from History, Harold Fletcher from Political Science, Philip Thomas from Economics, there were probably other professors as well. We read the original John Maynard Keynes’ theory of employment and commented on that rather than reading it with textbook which summarized the thoughts of Keynes. We also read a book by Mendes France who had been the premier of France and was here as the Rosenfield lecturer.Heather: Wow.Duane: We read a book by Oskar Lange who was a Polish economist who talked about the incorporation of free market principles in the socialist economy. That was the really the peak academic experience.
  • Duane Krohnke
    Duane: I didn’t do any independent papers in History, which I regret but I was doing a lot of other things. I played baseball, lettered in baseball although I really was not very good. My sophomore year I went out for football and my accomplishment was lasting the season because in high school I played offensive, even defensive end but at Grinnell I was not tall enough, fast enough, strong enough to do anything. But, I enjoyed that.
  • Duane Krohnke
    Duane: And then, my senior year I won a Rhodes Scholarship and went on to Oxford for two years and read philosophy, politics and economics which was a very memorable experience. A different approach to education, and I really thought it was a very good approach, a very beneficial approach, a rewarding one for me. After Oxford I went to the University of Chicago Law School, and three more years of education. I finished law school in 1966 and went to a prominent Wall Street law firm for four years. And then moved to Minneapolis in 1970 and practiced law there until I retired in 2001.
  • Duane Krohnke
    Duane: My professional career, if you will, was primarily business litigation but in 1985 I was asked to provide legal counsel to the law firm’s client, the American Lutheran Church, and the problem was what should the Church do in response to the news that the US immigration and naturalization service had sent undercover agents into worship services and Bible study meetings at Lutheran and Presbyterian churches in Arizona that were involved in the sanctuary movement. The movement was a loose collection of churches that declared themselves safe spaces for Salvadorans and Guatemalans who were fleeing their civil wars. And so the ALC and my own church, Presbyterian Church USA, joined together and sued the US government and eventually won the case with the federal court in Arizona saying it was unconstitutional under the First Amendment for exercise of religion clause for a government to have intrusive investigations.
  • Duane Krohnke & Heather Riggs
    Duane: I didn’t do any of the courtroom work, it was done by lawyers at the private law firm of Lewis and Roca in Phoenix, primarily Peter Baird and Janet Napolitano.Heather: Wow.Duane: Who is now of course the Secretary of Homeland Security after being Arizona’s Attorney General and Governor. I didn’t know anything about Latin America really and I knew nothing about immigration law which was in the background of this case, although the legal issue was technically over constitutional. So I took a training course in Asylum Law from a Minneapolis NGO and volunteered to do a pro bono asylum case for Salvador and they said a Central American but my first client was Salvadoran. So I started to learn about El Salvador in 1987 or so. Tried his case before an immigration judge, lost it, which was difficult for the time. And then, I volunteered in 1988 to do a second case and now I knew a little about El Salvador so I said I would like a Salvadoran case.
  • Duane Krohnke
    Duane: My second client was a man about my age who’d been, he was middle class background for Salvador, been involved in the government and objected to the military’s corruption and had been imprisoned and tortured in El Salvador. So, that meant I really had to learn a lot more about the country than I knew so I went on my first trip to El Salvador in April of 1989.
  • Duane Krohnke
    Duane: The war, Civil War was still going on. The day our delegation arrived the Attorney General was assassinated with a car bomb, so the security forces were out in the streets of the capital demanding identification from everyone. The people who were from the popular organizations, as they called them, trade unions and NGOs were being arrested. We went to the office of Commadres, the committee of the mothers of the disappeared and the assassinated and heard about their work. And, I saw a framed copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Espanol on the wall, which, as a lawyer I knew nothing about. Never regarded it as important, so when I got back home I started to learn about that instrument.
  • Duane Krohnke
    Duane: We visited the chapel where Oscar Romero was assassinated and he- and so I really started to learn about him. I probably read in the newspaper in March of 1980 when he was murdered that some priest in some country in Latin America had been murdered, meant nothing to me. But, I learned about him and so I’ve been back to Salvador five times, most recently for the thirtieth anniversary of Romero’s assassination. It had a transformative impact on me. I did other asylum cases, a young man from Afghanistan who was a student at Grinnell College. And some of my friends here knew that I was doing the work and he wanted to apply for asylum so I met him and started to learn about his country and he applied for asylum, was granted asylum. He is now a US citizen.
  • Duane Krohnke
    Duane: I went out to San Diego after, just after I retired to be his lawyer for his US citizenship interview and hadn’t seen him in ten years or so. We walked around the San Diego Zoo as I quizzed him about US history and civics which is part of the citizenship examination, and the interview was as easy as easy can be. We celebrated it with a lunch in a restaurant in La Jolla overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and when I left, he was now a practicing dermatologist. He gave me these samples of anti-aging cream, which I always tease him about. But, I never used them.
  • Duane Krohnke & Heather Riggs
    Duane: So, I did cases for Somalis, young men from Burma, and several clients from Colombia. It became the most important work.Heather: Wow.Duane: I retired in 2001 from my law firm and audited the International Human Rights law course that fall at the University of Minnesota Law School, taught by a friend of mine, and a world authority, really. And so he asked me, “Why don’t you help me teach this class?” I said, “David, you don’t need any help. You know everything.” But I became an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School in 2002, and through last year I was teaching the Refugee and Asylum law chapter in the book as well as litigation in US federal courts over foreign human rights abuses. Really enjoyed that. I have retired from that and I’m now, I’ve created a blog.Heather: Wow.Duane: About law, politics, economics, history and religion.Heather: Great.Duane: So, I’m keeping busy.
  • Heather Riggs & Duane Krohnke
    Heather: Great, that’s amazing. Just, I was wondering, how do you feel that Grinnell, maybe set you up on a trajectory or influenced your career path?Duane: Well, I had the benefit of what was George F. Baker Junior scholarship, full tuition scholarship which, otherwise I couldn’t have afforded to come here. And, there were a number of professors with an the emphasis on thinking seriously about serious issues and writing were important as well as the opportunity. You participate in things like baseball and football, small college and then really the opportunity to run for and be elected to and serve in student government which other, my previous time in college had been really not involved in any campus activities like that.
  • Duane Krohnke & Heather Riggs
    Duane: So, I think it’s, when I look at the higher educational universe, I think that small liberal arts colleges including Grinnell, of course, are very well equipped for the maturation of young people and when I walk around the University of Minnesota campus which is immense, and it straddles the Mississippi river, the thought of being an undergraduate at an institution like that where you really don’t know your professors or instructors, your teaching assistants, whatever they call them, it’s so easy to get lost. No one knows you and you don’t really have the opportunity to do things like I was able to do. I think that has been an immense advantage.Heather: OK. Thank you so much.Duane: OK.
Alumni oral history interview with Duane Krohnke '61. Recorded June 4, 2011.
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