September 12, 2017

These are tough times for our country, for our institutions, for our politics, and even for our families.

In many ways Iowa is a microcosm of our country, for it reflects many of those same struggles. Yet it is times like these that make me step back and look, not at the things that divide us, but at the things that unite us.

I think about our land with its fields of grain and corn.

I was thinking about those things when I was back in Carroll last month. As I drove from Des Moines to Carroll I was struck again by the beauty of the land, and the bountiful crops that reward us year after year.

For mile after mile the corn fields reminded me of the many hardworking Iowans, their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents — including my own family — who worked these fields for the future of their families.

We are all stewards of the land as we pass it from one generation down to the next.

In many ways the crops connect us to the land and connect us to each other.

I was also back in Breda to attend my high school reunion. While we had gone our separate ways after high school — some near and some far — it was reassuring to come back and reconnect, for it reaffirmed our friendships and experiences of the past in a way that made all of us appreciate how each of us influenced each other in our respective lives.

As we chatted about our intervening lives I think we recognized how much we were connected to Iowa and how much we are still part of that Iowa culture that continues to influence and enrich us.

While I was in Carroll I also did some family research in the courthouse, finding my great-grandfather’s naturalization order when he became a United States citizen in 1895. I thought about how much that must have meant to him and how that decision was a turning point for many generations to come.

Later, I went to the cemetery in Breda and thought about the past, as I quietly absorbed the memories that come with a cemetery. I visited the tombstones for my great-grandparents, my grandparents, and my own parents.

Thinking about their lives and the roles they played in my own life helped me to  understand the cycle of life and, at the same time, reinforced the enduring benefits we had by growing up in Iowa and the influence that Iowa has had on all of us.

In the end, even with the tough times we are having as a country and even as those tough times are reflected in Iowa, it was reassuring to appreciate anew that Iowa is a very special place where we can all connect to our families, our neighbors, our classmates, and our values.