Returning east to the flatlands for the Midwest leg of our road trip on the surface seemed to be somewhat of a letdown. Long driving days would no longer be rewarded with a stunning mountain vista or peaceful canyon. Traveling Interstate 80 to the heartlands of the Midwest, I curiously shifted my viewpoint from glorious vistas of natural landscape to inward thoughts of American values that would assist me to reaffirm pride in my country now.
What can be said about tiny, West Branch, Iowa, a town that celebrates the life of its most famous citizen, President Herbert Hoover? What about college town, Urbana, Illinois, where iconic structures of red bricked academia at the University of Illinois dominate one’s view? What lessons from a minor league baseball team in Columbus, Ohio. would influence famous Yankee pitchers, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera to strive to reach major league star stardom? It soon became clear that these three stops in my Midwest travels would provide impetus for a strategy to restore optimism in my country’s future.
1. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
History has rarely been kind to Mr. Hoover as he has been persistently blamed for the prolonging of the Great Depression beginning in 1929. Yet my visit to this extensive archive of Hoover memorabilia spanning his life from childhood to the Presidency revealed another side of our 31st President’s persona. He was a shy man of modest Quaker background who overcame early struggles in school, earned his degree in Geology from Stanford University and ultimately served his country as a well-respected civil servant. I became particularly impressed with his efforts in providing food humanitarian relief to war ravaged victims home and abroad during World War I. Evaluating these challenging times of Hoover’ life, I realized that his example of hard work and determination seem worthwhile attributes to maintain as a symbol of pride in our country now.
2. University of Illinois Main Quad
The winter term has ended at this revered land grant institution. Yet a casual walk at dusk amidst these time-tested edifices of academic pursuit suggested that America’s universities remain stubborn islands of intellectual pursuit amidst the vast sea of “dummy- downness ” propelled by our current Presidency today. Notably, Bill Gates has in fact announced that Microsoft Corporation has hired more graduates from this U of Ill. than any other academic institution in the world. As a past-dedicated teacher/professor, the U of Ill. experience has truly “hit home” that supporting the value of a worthy college education as a political funding action today seems highly worthwhile.
3.Columbus Clippers Baseball
On a rainy Tuesday evening at downtown Huntington Field, my wife and I joined an enthusiastic crowd to watch the hometown Columbus Clippers play their rivals, the Scranton Rail Riders, in a scheduled minor league game. With crowd interest in mind, various marketing ploys were conducted including bobble doll raffles, on-field spectator races and $1.50 barbecue rib discounts during the course of the game. Turning to the contest itself, many of the these baseball players would not get the chance to be successful at the major league level. Yet the players unselfish desire to win as a team for these loyal fans while simultaneously furthering their individual opportunities to be promoted and play “big league” baseball remained strong. In both of these examples, the “competitive fire” of baseball thus seemed so American in uniting us a people in that moment.
I take great pride in being born in the American Midwest even though I have not lived there for over 50 years. Having long-lasting memories about “family” and “community” in my Ohio childhood, I view this portion of my road trip as further evidence that the democratic foundations of my country must be restored. With renewed vigilance, I thus visualize the following mantra for assertively protesting my deep concern to our current leaders in our political system .”Please represent our democracy according to its intended form. Be willing to work hard, think and act intelligently, and unite with others for the sake of country.”