Opinion Columns & Blogs

June 20, 2010

'Pure Kansas night' sure isn't ordinary

The following are edited remarks Gov. Mark Parkinson made at the recent Symphony in the Flint Hills concert in Chase County:

The following are edited remarks Gov. Mark Parkinson made at the recent Symphony in the Flint Hills concert in Chase County:

I've been asked to give the welcome speech tonight, and I just can't do it. I can't give that same old ordinary, boring, safe welcome that you've heard me give so many times. I can't do it because tonight is no ordinary, boring night. Tonight is a night that I can only describe as a "pure Kansas night."

So, I've decided to do something a little different. Because I'd rather you think that I was a little crazy than to think I was boring on a night as special as tonight.

Because tonight is about a synergy that can't exist anywhere else in the world. It's about what happens when you combine the best of what man has to offer — talented musicians — and you pair them with the best that God has given us — the Flint Hills.

It's about something that can't take place on the East Coast and West Coast, and it's about people on the East or West coasts not even knowing about that — the Flint Hills. It's a night about not caring that they don't know about the Flint Hills and, after the BP disaster, hoping that they never find out.

Because it's a pure Kansas night. It also about sunflowers and wheat, and Jayhawks and Wildcats. But because it's about the whole state, it's also about Tigers (the Fort Hays kind — not the Missouri kind), Ichabods, Hornets, Gorillas and Shockers.

It's about all the unique Kansas things that we've built over the last 150 years, from the Brookville Hotel to the Sandzen art gallery.

And it's about all the things that God has given in this incredible state. Our incredible state parks, Cheyenne Bottoms, the Chalk Pyramids and the stunning Flint Hills that we have right here.

It's even about all the stuff that people laugh about. Big Brutus, the Garden of Eden and the five-legged cow in Oakley. Because when they laugh, we know that we can laugh at ourselves, and we know that it's what makes us real.

It's about the fact 150 years ago that Quantrill really did invade Lawrence and really did kill 183 innocent men, women and children because Missouri wanted us to be a slave state. And it's about the fact that the Free-Staters pushed them back and made this state what it is today.

It's about everything pure Kansas. Like Gov. Mike Hayden's accent — and knowing that you've lived in Kansas a long time because you don't notice that he has an accent anymore.

It's not about people who, when you tell them where you're from, they ask you if that is where Dorothy lives. And it's not about people who, when you find yourself in an interesting place, look at you and say, "Toto, I guess we're not in Kansas anymore." Because that was mildly funny when you were 8 years old, but for the last 3,000 times, it's just been downright annoying.

It is about people who understand that "The Wizard of Oz" has nothing to do with Dorothy and Toto and the red ruby slippers. It doesn't even have anything to do with a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion. It's about people who understand that "The Wizard of Oz" is about wisdom and passion and courage, and it makes perfect sense that it is about Kansas, because we have an overabundance of all three right here in this state.

It's a night about our progressive past and knowing that whatever difficulties we have in the future, we will make it to the stars.

It's a night about a synergy that can only happen here, now, tonight, in Kansas, in the Flint Hills, with you, me and everyone else here. It's a synergy that I can only describe as a "pure Kansas night."

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