MORRIS – You wouldn’t know it lately, but Illinois has a lot to offer.
It seems that the more people claim they are passionate about Illinois, the more they like to harp on the negatives.
There has grown up in this state a cottage industry around the idea that Illinois is some sort of barren, blasted heath of a territory and anyone who lives here is lost, misinformed or just plain stupid.
During the recent primaries, candidates focused on the misery people living in the state suffer, and how the future will be worse because a focus group said it plays well. Few ever said nice things about the state.
Not that we need compliments – we’re a hardy state with thick skin – but it makes you wonder why any of them would want to be a leader in such a desolate dystopia.
I’m sure it has to be benign altruism on their part. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Data from the Internal Revenue Service in December reported Illinois lost about 85,000 in 2017.
I’m not saying Illinois is perfect – it does lack oceanfront property, ski slopes, a well-funded educational system, and I did have to push snow off my car in mid-April this year – but there are things we can be proud of.
After all, even at the rate people are emptying out of the state, there’s still going to be someone in Illinois for the next 140 years or so.
So I thought it might be good to look at things we can be proud of as a state and its people.
To begin with, four presidents have been connected to this state in some way. Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Obama. And regardless of what you think of their politics – especially those last two – all of them have been leaders of consequence.
These aren’t the Buchanans or the Hardings or the Arthurs you forget about when listing the presidents. Lincoln was carved into Mount Rushmore. Grant, whose presidency is notable for being one of the most corrupt, had a heck of a run before that when he saved the Union during the Civil War.
Other states are much less distinguished.
Look at our neighbor, Michigan.
All they have as far as presidents go
is Gerald Ford – who wasn’t necessarily bad, except for, you know, pardoning Nixon.
Indiana and Wisconsin are worse, with no presidents coming from within their borders.
Illinois has also always been a center for transportation.
In Grundy County’s backyard, we have the I&M Canal, a marvelous piece of engineering that transformed our flat and wide state a center for industry and commerce.
The railroads came later, and many had to pass through Illinois.
A century later, several now major interstate highways pass through the area, making it ideal for the distribution facilities that are some of the top employers in the area County.
The history of state extends to the origins of the United States. George Rogers Clark lead Virginia militia through the state during the Revolutionary War, taking settlements from the British and their Native American allies. The campaign included attacks at Fort Dearbon in what is now Chicago, and Fort Detroit. His campaigns were a large part of the reason the United States were able to claim the Old Northwest Territory in the Treaty of Paris.
But no one lives in a state because Abraham Lincoln’s face is everywhere. (Who could have known the marketing power of that man when he was born in a humble log cabin?)
Our sports teams have had a good run, with a couple of World Series and Stanley Cup wins to boast. In the 1990s we had Jordan, who’s no Lebron but is almost as good.
Our farms feed the world and power its machinery. Our factories put out the equipment that builds roads and bridges across the globe.
From there, it’s the little things which, really, are the big things. The homes we grow up in, the parks where we learned to play sports or the yards where we made snowmen.
Everyone has these, in every state, but we all know ours were the best.
We can recognize the gentle curve of the street we grew up on in a heartbeat. We know yards will get us to our friends’ house without having to use anyone’s front door.
Those things like pensions and business climate are important, but only a little.
No one lives in Illinois because of
its infrastructure or pension system.
It’s because it’s home, and that’s not something than can ever be changed.