A 150th birthday is a significant milestone, and thanks to the Lawrence Sesquicentennial Commission, our city's 150th birthday is being celebrated in many ways.
Part of the celebration focuses on Lawrence's proud past. We've all had an opportunity to reflect on the city's anti-slavery roots and the important role Lawrence's founders played not only in the formation of the state but in national events leading up to the Civil War. Lawrence was an exciting place during its early days, but its residents had to be hardy and dedicated to live with the upheaval of the border wars with pro-slavery Missourians.
Lawrence's first residents were people of principle and vision. In the past 150 years, many principled and visionary leaders have passed through Lawrence and contributed in different ways to the city's greatness. They have made sure Lawrence was a wonderful home for the state's largest university as well as a leader in many other areas. If Lawrence, its downtown, its business climate and its quality of life are the envy of others in the state, it is because of the vision and leadership shown by generations of dedicated local residents.
The sesquicentennial celebration also has been an opportunity to continue that vision by considering what is great about our community and how we can pass on an even better Lawrence to future residents. A key part of that effort is the designation of Sesquicentennial Point east of the Clinton Dam. The point now is just a beautiful spot of open land, but with enough energy, the community can realize the vision of transforming the area into a center of community activity with a plaza/stage, amphitheater and other facilities.
Efforts to tell people of the future about life in Lawrence in 2004 have been interesting and entertaining. Schoolchildren have been asked to look ahead and speculate about the future of Lawrence and what they themselves will be like 50 years from now. (Here's a hint: You'll be much the same, just a little older and wiser.)
Local residents have been videotaped telling stories of Lawrence and have provided memorabilia to be buried in a large time capsule scheduled to be unearthed in 50 years. Among the time capsule contents will be a copy of the Atkins diet book, the city's recently passed no-smoking ordinance and a CD of local music. The people of the future need to know that Lawrence was full of residents with diverse viewpoints and interests who all shared a love of their city. It's a tradition we think our ancestors will cherish and carry on.
As residents of Lawrence in 2004, we have both the pleasure of celebrating the city's past and the obligation of building an even better community for the future. Lawrence is a wonderful town with a proud past and, in the words of former Lawrence resident Langston Hughes, "tomorrow bright before us like a flame." On the occasion of Lawrence's 150th birthday, let us celebrate our heritage and rededicate ourselves to passing a glowing flame into the city's future.