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Archive for Thursday, October 31, 2002

Look to the stars

October 31, 2002

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"Ad Astra," sitting atop the Capitol dome is an inspiration for Kansas lawmakers to reach a little higher for the state's future.

The scaffolding now has been removed and it's difficult not to be impressed by the appearance of "Ad Astra," the new sculpture standing atop the Kansas Capitol dome.

The Kansa Indian with his bow dramatically pointed into the sky was a pet project of Gov. Bill Graves, who ignored critics and ramrodded state funding to shore up the dome in preparation for the statue's installation. Private funds later raised to offset most of that cost have dulled the cries of critics. Seeing the statue now atop the dome probably will end the controversy.

Driving into Topeka from the east, the Capitol always has been a dramatic sight. Ad Astra, of course, looks much smaller atop the dome than it did strapped to a flatbed trailer on its way to its final home. But even at a distance, the heroic profile of the raised bow is recognizable.

As viewers get closer, the statue grows more recognizable. Especially in the sunlight, it is a striking figure. It stands above the capital city like a sentry. For the directionally challenged it is a helpful piece of trivia to know that Ad Astra's arrow points due north.

It was a stroke of genius to have the statue tour through many Kansas cities, including Lawrence, during its trip to Topeka. Hundreds of people came to the Lawrence Visitors Center and brought their children and grandchildren. They took photographs and touched the statue just so they could say they had. By touching the statue, they were becoming a part of its history, of the state's history. It was hard to be cynical when you saw Ad Astra, even lying on its side and strapped to a trailer. It was impressive; seeing it was something to tell your grandchildren about.

Kansans are proud of their history. Ad Astra ties the state to its history, but it also could serve as an inspiration for the future. The name is taken from the state motto and means "to the stars." What a great phrase for state lawmakers and other officials to consider each day as they go to work in Topeka.

The full state motto, of course, is "Ad Astra Per Aspera," meaning "to the stars through difficulty." No one says leading the state to its highest potential, "to the stars," is an easy task, but setting that goal is the first step for state residents and state officials.

Maybe the Indian atop the Capitol dome will serve as an inspiration for the work that takes place in the offices and meeting rooms below. One thing is certain. It sure beats that light bulb.

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