BEST BLOW FOR CIVIL RIGHTS Minneapolis 2000 -
Last fall, while thousands of high-profile citizens were courting arrest to protest the Diallo police shooting in New York City, a lone anesthesiologist in Eagan struck a blow for the rights of the elderly. When 41-year-old Thomas J. Valente narrowly avoided a collision with 69-year-old Virginia Hendrickson after being cut off in traffic, he also steered clear of a stereotype--that elderly Americans are delicate and infirm creatures, incapable of sharing our highways responsibly. Implicit in his decision to invite Ms. Hendrickson off the road for a discussion of the laws and protocol of automobile operation was a recognition of her maturity, competence, and full agency. And his recourse to physical confrontation--what some papers referred to as a "slap" or a "blow"--was the ultimate indication that he believed this senior citizen to be his equal. When Valente left Ms. Hendrickson with broken glasses at the side of the road, pulling his BMW Z3 and its six cylinders of finely tuned Bavarian engineering onto Highway 77, he rode off into a future where the elderly have no less right to be assaulted than any other Minnesotan.