Brownback: Kansas needs WWII values now

04/19/2011 12:00 AM

04/19/2011 6:22 AM

Gov. Sam Brownback harked back to the days of the Blitz on London and said Kansas needs to return to World War II values to overcome current economic struggles.

"I think we as a country are just going to have to go back to really saying, 'OK what got us to where we are? Hard work, ingenuity, education, strong families, commitments, character,' " Brownback told members of the Wichita Downtown Rotary Club on Monday.

"We've got to relearn the lesson of the World War II generation. We can. We're going to."

"This is not something new to us. We know what these values are," he added. "I think we just kind of got away from it, in investing more in interesting instruments to change and trade money, rather than focus on how do I make something. We're going to have to start making more things."

The governor urged the Rotarians to invest in the state and support ventures such as electricity-generating windmills made from high-tech plastic composites.

He also urged development of tourism in the Flint Hills, where he said a former Kansas State University professor and entrepreneur is hoping to create the "Sturgis of horseback riding."

Sturgis is the famed site of an annual national rally that brings tens of thousands of motorcyclists to South Dakota's Black Hills region.

Brownback envisions a more sedate sort of attraction than Sturgis, which is famed for roaring motorcycles and wild partying.

The governor's plans — to be discussed in a Flint Hills summit next month — tend more toward trail riding and maybe a destination hotel.

In the Flint Hills, "you have miles of trails that look like the Old West," Brownback said. "You know, you have cattle pens where you're shooting through the Flint Hills — you're looking out there and you could just see the covered wagons going through there."

In suggesting ways to revitalize the state's economy, Brownback invoked former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who rallied his country to fight the Nazis.

"He would never call the days dark days in Great Britain, he called them 'stern,' " Brownback said. "These are stern days, not dark days, because if you look in the legacy of British people, you're going to be proud that you were alive in World War II and stood here and defended this country."

And as Britain is proud of standing up to the Nazis, Americans and Kansans will one day be proud of standing up to the current economic woes, he said.

"This isn't World War II, but we are going into that sort of sterner season," Brownback said. "We're just not going to make it by printing money or being clever. We're going to have to produce global quality products at prices that people are willing to pay. And we can do it. But it may not be as much fun as just having a big spending party.

"We're going to have to work at it. And we're going to be proud we are alive and we are going to be proud we were Kansans during that time."

Rotarian Charles Lloyd, a 75-year-old real estate investor, remembers growing up during World War II.

He said he agrees with the governor that some values from that era would help, although he noted that today's struggle is between economic ideals instead of democracy versus a totalitarian government.

But he said he was dismayed to recently read that European allies are seeking more support from the United States in military missions in Libya.

He said he would tell the Europeans, "Hey, it's next door to you guys. We can't be the world's policeman forever and let everybody have a free ride."

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