You may be familiar with the book or popular movie, Monuments Men, but did you know we have brave men and women currently serving similar roles in our Armed Forces? Who are they? What do they do? Why does it matter to you, your job, or your freedom? In this interview, businessman, legislator, and Army reservist, Dale Kooyenga, shares with Linda fascinating information on how our military has helped preserve cultural artifacts important to our nation and to countries around the world. Listen to learn why this effort is so important to the future of America.
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Linda J. Hansen: Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen. Your host and the author of Prosperity 101 - Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck, and the creator of the Breakroom Economics online course. The book, the course, and the entire podcast library can be found on Prosperity101.com. I seek to connect boardroom to breakroom and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs.
My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement, and retention and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit Prosperity101.com.
Thank you for joining us today. I have a very interesting guest with us and with a topic that I think you’ll find quite fascinating. Dale Kooyenga is a Contract Chief Financial Officer and a member of the Wisconsin State Senate. He’s proudly representing the fifth senate district and also serves as an officer in the US Army Reserves. He serves in the Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, which I think you’ll find fascinating, and I can’t wait for him to tell you about it. So, another piece of trivia about my guest today is he serves as my state senator. So, I’m thankful for my representation in the Senate through him and for his service to our nation in the army and in the political arena. It’s hard to be in the arena sometimes. So, thank you, Senator Kooyenga or Dale for being here today and for serving your nation so proudly.
Dale Kooyenga: Well, thank you, Linda. Call me Dale.
Linda J. Hansen: Okay [laughs].
Dale Kooyenga: Happy to serve you in many different roles and this is where we talk about different hats I wear, I’m required to say, and it is the truth that I represent myself. I don’t represent the organization, the U.S. Army, or other organizations I’m part of.
Linda J. Hansen: Yes. Well, I thank you for taking time to do this. You know, we often think about our military members and we’re recording this today on December 7th of 2020, and it is Pearl Harbor. We’ve taken time to pause and reflect and think about that attack on our homeland and all the people who sacrificed their lives. I just read a story about a military chaplain who, before he gave his life – he helped 12 people get to safety. And I just think about that, like, so often now we wonder how we can serve, you know, and very few of us are asked to give our life, you know, the ultimate sacrifice. So, right now, I want to say thank you to all the Pearl Harbor families, all the military members throughout the years and to those serving now, we appreciate it and we know we could not be speaking freely today without the sacrifice of so many.
So, with that in mind, I really would like to share with the listeners, something that I think is so fascinating that you’re working on with the army. You had posted an article regarding the book, The Monuments Men, and it had to do – and many people have probably seen the movie, which was great. But it talks about how our United States military – that book and that movie talked about how our United States military went into countries, like went into Germany and others, and to restore and recover stolen and destroyed monuments. And I don’t think people realize that this goes on still today in many countries and our military is involved in that. So, I’d love for you to share what you do and what that mission is.
Dale Kooyenga: Yeah, so you’re right. A lot of people know this mission from the Hollywood movie of Monuments Men that had the stars in it, Matt Damon and George Clooney and Bill Murray and it’s a good movie. It’s loosely based on a book. But the fact is, is that mission existed. If you look at World War II, Hitler and – to actually a little bit lesser extent, Japan. They wanted to destroy cultural heritage. They want to destroy arts that they thought were the works of degenerates as defined by them, which include Jews and Catholics. Hitler wanted to amass his own collection of art. If people recall, he was actually rejected from art school when he was younger and he blamed the Jews in part for that rejection. And then also there was just officers in the German army who saw art as currency and knew that it could bring them riches. So, they stole for that reason as well.
So, The Monument Men story, as it is told is the story of American professionals and its international alliance was British and folks in country as well, that together collectively had a Herculean effort to restore art and architecture that was primarily destroyed by the Axis power, but to a lesser extent, also destroyed by the Allies, right? And when they were bombing and they were moving forward, not intentionally always, but if it was a legitimate military target or they thought it was, it was destroyed.
And so, just really, it’s one of the things that war that people don’t think about that often, is the destruction of cultural heritage and those types of symbols. And it’s one of the quotes from the movie and the book is that you get rid of entire people. History is full of an entire civilizations, entire races of people, that were wiped from the face of the earth. That is horrific and it is horrible. But to take it to a new level, there are people out there, evil people like the Hitlers, that not only want to destroy people, they want to destroy any history of those people as well. Right?
And that’s – I could go on about all the reasons that this mission is very, very important, especially when you look at the counterinsurgency and the hearts and minds, and trying to win over a population, but it’s a world history. It’s not only an American mission, it’s a mankind mission, which is why the Hague Convention, which is agreed on by over 150 countries, the Hague Convention says that the international community will respect cultural heritage for some of the reasons that we just mentioned.
Linda J. Hansen: Yeah, it’s amazing. And, you know, in our season of cancel culture here in the U.S. – it’s not really a season, it’s definitely a multiple-year effort. Yeah. But in this cancel culture in the U.S., we can see how so many people want to destroy our history. And we see young people who have no concept of the beauty of our founding fathers' wisdom or the basis of our Constitution, or why we fought for freedom. And a lot of times art is part of that story. I think of that picture of George Washington kneeling, you know, with his horse by his side and there’s so many different pictures that show through history. But it isn’t just pictures, it’s statues. It’s writing. It’s everything.
I noticed in this review that you had written you were talking about in Afghanistan, the Taliban destroyed Buddhist statues that dated back 2,000 years. And the Buddhas were not only a religious shrine for millions, but also served as a tourist destination that was vital to Afghanistan’s ability to attract visitors and much-needed economic activity. And you said ISIS was even more effective in their systematic efforts to erase history in the world’s cradle of civilization, most infamously the destruction in Palmyra of relics dating back to the 2nd century. And you said you began your work on this Monuments Men Project, knowing the mission was important, but you’re now convinced that this work is critical to America’s long-term interests. Can you explain why you say it’s critical to America’s long-term interests?
Dale Kooyenga: Yeah, I mean, if you can imagine we were the ones that put a JDAM or a missile through those Buddhas, you can imagine the amount of bad will for good reasons that would create with the Buddhist community. And there’s millions and millions of Buddhists around the world, right? And you take that across a lot of – it’s an attack on cultural and also sometimes the religion, and it is an especially personal attack when you take these symbols of someone’s faith or culture that have been around for centuries or thousands of years, in some cases, and you destroy them.
It feeds upon the enemy’s psychological operations initiatives which says, “Well, America wants to crush you. They want to destroy you and your people and your culture.” They want to have a, you know, monolithic American brand around the world and they’re the imperial – all so they could feed on and then if you destroy their heritage, it’s not only a crime against the values that all humankind stands for, and that’s horrible, but it’s also strategically the wrong way to do things. I mean, strategically, we want to have allies and friends.
I mean, America, we say – because we’re not the largest country and we will never be the largest country. India is larger than us. China is larger than us. Even countries like Nigeria are expected to surpass us in the next couple of decades. And we’re not the country with the most natural resources or the country – China has exponentially more natural resources as far as rare earth metals. Until recently, oil was something that we weren’t top of the list on. That has changed. But my point is that the American strength has always been our people, our flexibility, our economy, and that hasn’t been due to the size of a nation or resources based on our collective spirit and entrepreneurial efforts, right? And our alliances, our partners around the world is from folks like the Australias, and now the Japans and the South Koreas, and
those partners around the world that have a like-minded view of liberal democracy and being a republic and freedom, and liberty. And if we don’t respect cultural heritage, those countries aren’t going to respect us, and we’re going to lose our partners. And we need our partners, both economically and militarily.
So, that’s why I think the mission is very critical. I will kind of expand the conversation a little bit, too, is this was something that during World War II we did, and we did it well. Not only cultural heritage, but like when you have experts that we are able to consult on water and consult on finance issues, consult on agriculture issues. And we did that well during World War II because in 19 – you look at 1939, we had the 18th largest military in the world. Our military was at par with Greece. We were, with some exceptions, in charge of the shores between Maine and California, and we didn’t have this military. We didn’t have his presence worldwide.
Fast forward five years later, we are in charge of over a third of the globe. We have the largest military the world has ever seen. All of a sudden we’re in charge. And it worked out from a – from what we call a civil affairs perspective, is because we had the people in uniform that were farmers and they were artists, and they were finance people, right? Because in order to go from 18th largest in the world to first, is we took these people and put a uniform on them. And so, we inherently had a force that was full of people that were from the civilian world.
Now, I’m a fan of Milton Friedman military – the Milton Friedman concept of an all-volunteer force. But one of the byproducts of that over time is we’ve moved away from – we have more and more professional soldiers, more professional officers, and we don’t have as many, relatively speaking, World War II citizens that are also in the military, right? And so, what they recognize in the global war on terror is that when you had a problem that were civil in nature, is it was the – having the right person in uniform there to help you out, was largely driven by serendipity.
It was like, “I need a civil affairs officer.” “Oh, perfect, I have a water person and I have a water project.” More likely what was happening was you say, “I have a water project,” and your civil affairs officer would be a superintendent of school or a finance person, or emergency management person. So, what the Army did was said, “We want to go back to having very specific specialists within civil affairs,” because the current system made as much sense as saying, “Oh, my nephew, you know, drove a tank in the army. So, I’m certain he knows how to fly an F-35.”
So, we know how on the opposite side of it, we don’t assume everyone in the military could do everything in the military. But at times, people in the military assume that you’re civil people, your civil affairs officers, that they can do everything in the civilian world. And we know the civilian world is complex, right? And so that’s what’s getting back at is that when we look at the world now and we look at the fight before us, and the threat from the Chinese and to a lesser extent Russia, and even still like the threat that we had the last 20 years as far as an insurgent is we have to recognize as a complex world – it’s in the military we call the gray zone, which means we’re not probably going to be threatened by a Chinese tank. But we may be threatened by Chinese state-owned enterprise, right? And we need folks in uniform that are able to dissect and understand, and analyze things like Chinese state-owned enterprise. And so, that’s the larger program. The cultural heritage is a part of what I’ve been working on. But my larger context is I’m working with a very talented group of people to identify our nation’s best and brightest in several areas that are not – people would not consider uniquely military in nature.
Linda J. Hansen: That’s really exciting and it seems so comprehensive and so wise, in the sense that it covers such wide ground. And, you know, we’re looking – in our culture today, we’re looking at this revisionist history. And I mentioned before the cancel culture, we have watched this summer as riots and violence have erupted in cities across the country, and we watched as statues are toppled. I know, in this piece that you wrote, you showed – you included pictures of statues right outside your office at the Wisconsin State Capitol, and it was so sad that night that they were vandalized.
And, you know, when we don’t pay attention to our history, we lose the way for the future. And we can’t erase history. I mean, people try to erase history. And – but as we look back, we can see the folly of that, shall I say? But whereas we help these other cultures, even like these in Iraq, Afghanistan, other places, we can see their history plays into the whole global picture and the human history. Like you said, it’s not just – it’s mankind history and we need to make sure we protect that and preserve that. What would you say to teachers, educators, parents, who would like to help their young people, whether it’s teenagers or preschoolers, understand the importance of these statues or this cultural heritage in the United States and around the world?
Dale Kooyenga: That’s a great, great question because I think that at the heart of this culture that says these founding fathers were slave owners or this person had this issue or that issue, it’s addressed in multiple different places. And let me just try to pull that together, is number one, particularly as a Christian, is I know, no perfect man. And I know I look in the mirror I see just like anyone else, an imperfect man, okay?
And so, when we’re looking at folks in our history, and we say, “Oh, this man was imperfect. [inaudible] down his sins.” The answer is absolutely, like they were people that had some major issues, and all sorts of historical figures that we respect have these contradictions in their lives that we can’t reconcile, because of the element of sin. And our founding fathers realize that and that’s why they created a system of checks and balances we have to check our demons that they recognize in themselves as well.
I always love as a grounding phrase in the Constitution that says, “In order to form a more perfect union.” Right? And the reason that it says the more perfect union, it doesn’t give any destination day, because they realize the element of man was broken. And therefore, we will never create a perfect union but we can always strive for a more perfect union. And so, that’s what we do. I mean, we are more perfect today than we were 50 years ago with the civil rights movement. Right? Like we’re more perfect today than we were 100 years ago because of women’s suffrage, and more and more perfect today than we were 150 years ago because slavery was abolished. And we’re continuing to be enlightened. We’re continuing to expand the freedom and liberty as originally envisioned and captured in those documents, although it’s been an evolution.
And so, what happens is that my fears when people want to do cancel culture and they want to tear down statues, and they want to rewrite history, you’re not going to find the perfect person unless you look at the cross. So, what you end up with is, where do you start? I mean, you got to start somewhere and you need to look these folks. And I don’t know what his sin was but, you know, one of the statues that was torn down in Madison was a colonel. He was a Norwegian immigrant and he was a well-respected man who lost his life in the Civil War, fighting to free slaves. I mean, he was like if you’re going to do a superhero movie about some badass American in the grant warrior who was freeing slaves, it would be him, and yet they tore down his statue. I mean, he was the social justice warrior who died on the battlefield freeing slaves.
The other one that was torn down was a Lady Liberty. Lady Liberty is a fictitious character. So, maybe she was perfect. I don’t know she’s – that’s why we make fictitious characters because we want heroes that we can’t poke holes in, and she was up there because of recognition of the women’s suffrage movement, which Wisconsin was a leader on. We were the first state to ratify the Constitution to get a right of women to vote. So, the cancel culture doesn’t even stop at people recognizing that people have problems that extends itself to fictitious symbols of Lady Liberty, which is like a statue of liberty here in Wisconsin. So, I just don’t know where it ends, but I think it starts ending with proper education both in our schools – before that, even at the home, to have these conversations and talk about these issues as our history as a nation, which is also our history as individuals, which is complicated.
Linda J. Hansen: Very true. Well, and as you know, with Prosperity 101, I’m always trying to help employers educate employees about issues as well and how policy affects paychecks. But when we look at destroying our history and basically overturning our culture, we’re looking at a type of society. We’re seeing it right now, you know, in lockdowns and things where there is no freedom. We’re looking at, you know, what’s wrong becomes right, what’s right becomes wrong. No one knows where the lines are and we’re really looking at chaos in our culture, and that is so detrimental to businesses and then being able to provide jobs and stability for their employees. And can you address that a little bit? I’m sure you see so much of this as an elected representative. I’m sure you hear from your constituents some of these issues. So, could you address that?
Dale Kooyenga: Yeah, I mean, the issues for businesses are multi-faceted. But, you know, I think, mutual respect and not trying to operate their businesses out of fear and a general understanding, and an appreciation for our diversity and respect for it, and diversity comes in many different forms, and I think businesses generally are doing a great job of that. I think that the targeting of businesses and them operating in fear, as far as you know, I don’t want to be on the wrong side of that issue. And so, I think there’s more of a pressure on businesses on one side of that equation than the other. But I think that most businesses get it. I mean, businesses are typically run by good people that understand these dynamics. They have to balance them out and I think they also understand the threat before us as far as a foreign adversary role that the Chinese have stolen our secrets. They are trying to steal proprietary information, our proprietary products, and then take away market share and the momentum from us.
So, they understand why the importance of why we have the right public policy, why we have to have the right people in the military that understand both the civilian world and the military world, and also understand why they have that people in their businesses that have a service component, not only from a government standpoint but just in their communities, that the purpose of their business is not only profit-motivated but profit as it is largely defined as far as what is profitable for the community in a larger sense, which I think they get and I think they do and, therefore, trying to build up that sense of community and support that.
Linda J. Hansen: You mentioned how sometimes businesses are afraid to speak up or are afraid to get on certain sides of the issues. And I interviewed a woman recently who owns a company called Makeup America! and it is all made in America cosmetics, you know, all sourced, made, processed, everything – cosmetics in America. And she said just because she used the word America in her branding, she received, you know, threats and things, and it’s just horrible. So, what would you say to business owners?
Dale Kooyenga: Oh, well, I’ll say this. Let me say this. Social media is not reality and a couple of different things on that. One is that the person that is aggressive and mean, and negative on social media, in that regards were bad people. They’re probably not effective and influential people by the fact that they hide behind the keyboard and spew such nastiness online. The second part of that is, is a lot of those messages are trolls. They are not real people and our human mind looks at the screen and puts it together thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I have all this pressure on my business, all this pressure on me.” And the reality is, is that it’s not as great as you think it is between the silent majority and the people that are targeting you and this is true. This is not conspiracy. This is true.
The Russians, in particular, and other adversaries have created online profiles to create dissension, to create division, and they are all over the place. There’s tens of thousands of trolls and agents of foreign governments that are on our online systems in order to spread false information, in order to create divisions, and so do not look at your social media posts or do not look at your comments section, and think that this is just some guy raising his kids or girl raising his kids, and legitimately super frustratingly you threw them off balance because you used the word America. So, keep that in perspective. Don’t empower our adversaries by empowering garbage, made-up profiles with hateful comments on vehicles out there that where your businesses get feedback because it’s just not reality oftentimes.
Linda J. Hansen: Right. It’s not reality and you are correct. I mean, foreign governments have infiltrated and tried to divide us as citizens, and the importance of protecting and preserving that pride and the American spirit and the belief in the American dream. And can you address that a little bit and how that fits into this overall mission with your army work, and what it means to the future for our country and for our world?
Dale Kooyenga: I’m very bullish on the future of our country and I think in part because I have experiences in startups working with young people, and I see their energy and their work ethic. And I’ve been a leader in the military with company command positions. And if folks could just see the America that I see, in uniform. We are Black. We are White. We are Native American. We are Latino. We are tall and short. We are from rich families and poor families. We are from the backwoods of Montana and from the cities of Chicago. We are folks that not only are living and breathing and serving in the reserves or active duty force, but these are people who’ve had blood that has passed through black skin and yellow skin and white skin, side by side, around the world, not for anything else but our principles that are in that Constitution that says, “We’re on a journey to a more perfect union,” and other places around the world have said, I want to grab on to that, I want to be part of that. And we’ve sent our young men and women to shed their blood through that.
And those folks that had died in Pearl Harbor were willing to do that. They exist today. They are out there. You will find them in the military. You’ll find them in our businesses. You’ll find them in our churches. You’ll find their community, like we will survive if we empower the individuals, not empowering the institutions that claim to speak for these individuals and claim power and claim that they have the solutions. But don’t push it down to these bright, articulate people that have the passion, so that – I’m really, really, really optimistic about our future. I know there’s significant threats. But if you look at the past, we’ve overcome. We’ve overcome once again, not because of our resources, not because of the population, but we’ve adapted and overcome because of our people. And I see those people and I know that we can do this again.
Linda J. Hansen: Absolutely. And to everyone out there listening, whether you’re a business owner or a parent, or an educator, if you’re afraid to speak up – I mean, I’ve been talking to a lot of people recently who have maybe seen things during the election or prior to, you know, this summer, they have been afraid to speak up. These businesses who are afraid to speak up and maybe defy some of the unconstitutional rules and mandates that have come down, I’ve just told them, ‘What if everybody didn’t?” You know, my – I used to read a book to my kids and now I read it to my grandkids. It’s called, What If Everybody Did? I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s great. It’s cartoons. But if everybody threw their coat on the floor, you know, well, then there’s a whole pile of coats that everybody has to.
Dale Kooyenga: [Laughs]. [Inaudible].
Linda J. Hansen: Yeah, it’s great. You could use it. But it’s – you know, if everybody threw their apple core, you know, just out the window. I mean, it’s a pile of apple cores or, you know, I mean –
Dale Kooyenga: You know, I’m okay with the apple core. The animals love the apple core but with candy wrappers, I get. Yeah.
Linda J. Hansen: Right. But, you know, if everybody did – you know, if nobody did their dishes, you know. What if everybody left their dishes to pile up, you know –
Dale Kooyenga: Yeah.
Linda J. Hansen: – those kinds of things. And so, I’ve been telling people, “What if everybody who believed in our Constitution, what if everybody who believes in protecting our American history, what if everybody who believes in freedom and liberty, and you know, the American dream? What if everybody who believes in our Bill of Rights? What if we don’t speak up? What if we don’t protect it if we allow people to intimidate us into silence? Then, you know, what do we have as a nation?” And I think that can be what we have a closing thought about.
Dale Kooyenga: There’s a journalist by the name of Sebastian Junger who wrote the book, Tribe, and in that, he makes the argument that I’ll simply repeat, not that I’m making – I’ll repeat what he said that if you are a terrorist or if you’re [inaudible] the United States and you want to take down the United States, the strategy they would take would not be a 9/11 attack, because that strategy pulled us together as a nation, and it had us see what we all have in common, and it pulled us together for the betterment of the nation. And his argument in the book is that their strategy may be more effective.
Just leave us to our own devices, because our own devices are pulling us apart and creating divisions and making was weaker, and it’s making us weaker. And this is not who we are and if you guys take a step back, which starts there, you know, part of our history, and our – well, we have hold in common and I think part of the problem is that so many people in America have made politics their religion. This is on both sides of the spectrum.
And you know, you and I know, Linda, that our religion is not our politics. It’s separate, right? And so, we need to have healthy public policy debates. We need to discuss issues. But that has to be a discussion, the absence of contempt. It has to be an understanding of our mutual history and our mutual values, and move forward from there. And so, I – you know, once again, I think that we can do this, I’m optimistic, but it’s – it takes a conscious effort.
Linda J. Hansen: It does. And, you know, something you said, too, is we all bleed the same. We have our American soldiers, our men and women on the battlefield. They’re bleeding American blood. It doesn’t matter whether they’re Black, White, Red, Yellow, anything in between. It’s like we are Americans and we have to focus on what unites us, and what we have in common. And I, like you, am very optimistic. We have more in common than we have that divides us. And I really hope that anyone who’s listening will stand up and be bold, and be unafraid to speak for American principles, American values, and not be afraid to show a patriotic support and love for our homeland.
It’s – we have freedom and people risked their lives to come to our nation. We have so much to offer here that we can really pass down to future generations. And we will do that if we are bold, if we are faithful to our Constitution, to our principles. And with this important work that you and your army colleagues are doing is, you know, protecting culture, not only for Americans but for around the world. So, if they would like to find out more about your work in this mission, how would our listeners be able to learn more about The Monuments Men and as well as what you’re doing with your mission?
Dale Kooyenga: There’s actually an article about the Smithsonian – we’re doing with the Smithsonian. Just Google Monuments Men U.S. Army , you’ll see all sorts of articles and go from there.
Linda J. Hansen: I’m sure people will enjoy doing that. And please, listeners, share it with your children so that they understand the importance of preserving our national heritage and the international heritage of countries around the world. So, thank you, Dale, for –
Dale Kooyenga: Thank you, Linda. Thanks for having me.
Linda J. Hansen: Yeah, thanks for spending time with us today. And if people would like to reach out to you, how would you recommend they reach you?
Dale Kooyenga: Oh, it’s related to state senate stuff, obviously, just Google Dale Kooyenga. That’s K-O-O-Y-E-N-G-A or we say in the military Kilo, Oscar, Oscar, Yankee, Echo, November, Golf, Alpha.
Linda J. Hansen: [Laughs].
Dale Kooyenga: And reach out to the office and the office will play quarterback from there and see what we can help you with.
Linda J. Hansen: Okay.
Dale Kooyenga: But it’s truly an honor to serve. I think we’re – we’ve accomplished a lot in Wisconsin over the last several years. And I like the momentum we have and it’s an honor serve. And most of the things we do legislatively come back from people that are living in Wisconsin and see things, and give us feedback. So, if you see something in public policy that needs to change, we’re all ears. That’s where the ideas come from. So, thanks for having me, Linda. Appreciate what you guys are doing.
Linda J. Hansen: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Dale Kooyenga: Take care.
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