Where’s the Sunflower State going, as it moves past its birthday and steps into its 153rd year?
Wednesday’s Journal-World featured Richard Gwin’s photographs of smiling and costumed youngsters observing the state’s birthday. The pictured young wranglers presented a happier face for the occasion than the odious wrangling taking place daily in Topeka. Their innocent countenances beg the question of what the state may be like in a few years when they have the opportunity to vote and to help shape its philosophies and practices.
And what would those pioneers who founded Kansas think of what their creation has become?
Certainly it’s more than its legacy of wheat and oil, airplanes and helium, meadowlarks and “Home on the Range,” and the romance of cowboys, cattle drives and covered wagons, Abilene and Ellsworth.
The state’s constitution sets out specifically the need to provide for schools and universities, to address the creation of public facilities and “benevolent institutions.” It calls for addressing the needs of the incapacitated and handicapped, the aged and infirm and the unemployed. It addresses victims’ rights and defines marriage.
Although it’s a document that may yet again be amended this year, it seems clear that its fundamental intention was for government to protect and defend the state’s residents, including those least capable of caring for themselves, and to enable Kansas children to grow and prosper through educations mandated and made possible by local and state government. That would include schools such as that one in which Lawrence pupils were celebrating on Tuesday.
Kansas University Law Professor Mike Hoeflich, also in Wednesday’s J-W, raises the important question of whether Kansas is redefining itself as an instrument of economic development, abandoning in large measure its 150-plus years of constitutionally supported emphasis on culture, education and providing for those who are disadvantaged in one respect or another.
Ad Astra Per Aspera. Here’s hoping the Sunflower State continues to reach for the stars instead of settling for short-sighted initiatives that sometimes seem punitive and belittling.