We should begin, I think, with an introduction and some background, as if we met at a cocktail party and you said, “So Suzanne, what do you do?”
Between fistfuls of cheese — the first thing you should know about me is that I love cheese — I would say, “I’m the new opinion page writer for The Wichita Eagle.” Then I’d pause to chew — because cheese! — and also to gauge your expression for signs of approval, hostility or something else.
Since my new role was announced last week, I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of well wishes from friends, colleagues and others who say they’re glad The Eagle has renewed its commitment to featuring a local editorial voice. It’s necessary to an independent local newspaper and to the community, they said, and I agree.
(One college friend responded on Facebook with a meme from “The Big Lebowski” in which Jeff Bridges leans back and says, “Yeah? Well, you know . . . That’s just, like, your opinion, man.” And I appreciated that as well.)
I’m honored and excited to be a new opinion writer after nearly three decades of covering news in Wichita.
When I moved to Kansas from my home state of North Carolina, I never dreamed I would settle here and raise a family. But like the pioneers I read about in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books of my childhood, I came to appreciate the subtle beauty of this place — the Arkansas River snaking through downtown, the fiery colors of leaves in the fall, the watercolor sunsets at day’s end.
Now this is home, and I care fiercely about its future.
I care about public schools, which I grew up attending and which I believe are crucial to the health of any society. My two children, Hannah and Jack, graduated from Wichita public schools and now attend Wichita State University.
I care about reading and literacy, and I devote much of my free time to literacy-related causes. I volunteer once a week at a Wichita elementary school, listening to my third-grade reading buddy work his way through Magic Treehouse books and high-fiving after every chapter.
I care about Wichita neighborhoods and keeping them safe, vibrant places, so I help out on my neighborhood board and cheer on kids during summer swim meets at our local pool. At holiday time, you can find me rallying friends to go Christmas caroling. (Sometimes, you know, people invite you in for wine — and cheese.)
I care about journalism and its role in democracy. I believe government works best when it’s held in check by a free and independent press, and that means asking difficult questions, summoning documents, demanding transparency.
I care about the American Dream, which I learned first-hand from my immigrant parents. My father moved to the United States from Cuba and my mother from Germany. They settled here, became citizens, and raised my brothers and me to appreciate what’s good about this country and to fight — at the voting booth, at City Hall, or during dinner-table discussions — to change what’s not.
Now I’m here, launching a new gig amid a devastating government shutdown, a new legislative session in Topeka, and a tragic incident that left a 9-year-old Wichita boy dead. So enough with the small talk. Let’s get started.
Suzanne Tobias: 316-268-6567, @SuzanneTobias