I was raised in Western Kansas, in a small community called Sharon Springs. It’s like if you were going to go to Colorado for vacation, and you’re driving and you’re driving, and it’s like “are we there yet?” No, you’re not there yet. And you drive some more and you’re probably in Sharon Springs.
Is the American Dream at Risk in Kansas?
My ancestors migrated to Kansas following the Civil War, during the Reconstruction period. They were part of what has been termed the Exoduster Movement. And the reason they did this was because there was a gentleman called Pat Singleton and he stood on the banks of the Mississippi with a sign that said, “Go to Kansas! Go to Kansas! Kansas is the land of Opportunity.”
And what that American Dream meant for folks, my ancestors and many others, was the opportunity to become a landowner, to homestead land and achieve that American Dream. And the American Dream they held was to put them on the same level playing field as someone who was a plantation owner, who owned land and could work for themselves. So that was the American Dream that brought my ancestors out to Western Kansas.
Now, being raised in a farming community, you spend a lot of time driving tractors and doing all those sort of things. And, when you’re sitting on a tractor for 12 hours a day, my generation had lots of time to think and think and think, and dream about what we would like to do – what our American Dream was.
There wasn’t any doubt that education became the key for us to be able to achieve our version of the American Dream. Education was the factor that would level the playing field. Regardless of who you were, or where you came from, education became the element that would help you achieve the American Dream in Kansas.
So, is the American Dream at risk in Kansas? Every child who walks through the doors of our school buildings has the right to dream. And public schools still continue to be the keeper of that dream. We need to protect the vision our forefathers had for Kansas public education, governed by a locally-elected Board of Education.