To be born an
American is wonderful, to be born a Kentuckian is
sublime. Pride in one’s state and country is found
throughout America. People from across the nation boast
of their state’s superiority. Paeans are delivered to
the grandeur of their mountains, the magnificence of
their shores, and to the overall beauty of their land.
Nevertheless, the pride Kentuckians feel for their home
is akin to a religious experience. In the words of an
You’re just from
Well I’ll be gol
I’d rather live in
The balance of my
Than be the Czar
With his riches
and his truck—
Say, I wouldn’t
take his kingdom
For one corner of
feelings regarding Kentucky voiced by her sons and
daughters began as soon as the region became settled.
Verbal and written reports of extremely fertile land,
seemingly endless forests, and abundant game lured
settlers into Kentucky by the tens of thousands.
By 1792, Kentucky
achieved statehood. The vast natural resources of the
new commonwealth helped make her one of the wealthiest
in the Union. But Kentucky had more than just material
riches; she had a wealth of people. The diversity of
those who settled the state brought an infusion of
cultures from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and
Through years of
living on the edge of the frontier, Kentuckians
developed a pragmatic way of life. Survival remained
the first and foremost challenge facing early settlers.
By having to struggle to survive, Kentuckians became a
fiercely independent, and long after the frontier era
had ended, they remained independent and self-reliant.
loved their land with a passion. From lordly
plantations to humble small farms, the men and women of
the commonwealth equated wealth and social status with
the ownership of land.
Within a few years
of settlement, Kentucky became known as a place that had
some of the finest horses in the world. Horse racing
became an obsession with many of the state’s residents.
By 1875, the love of horses and racing had created the
Kentucky Derby. Contrary to what other states may
boast; Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world.
colonel with his white suit, moustache and goatee became
a part of the American folk image. His estate
surrounded by miles of white painted plank fences that
enclose only the finest of Thoroughbreds has become an
indelible image in the minds of people throughout the
of Kentucky will people from throughout the world have
when they return to their homes? Will they see the
state as one of great natural beauty? Without a doubt.
Will they find Kentuckians warm and hospitable? More
than likely. Will they really have a better
understanding of a commonwealth that is complex as it is
magnificent? Probably not.
difficult to place in neat niche. Kentuckians are proud
of their state and its colorful history, but at the same
time many residents of the commonwealth “look through a
glass darkly” regarding its future.
fading away as the main staple of Kentucky agriculture,
the state’s reputation of being agrarian is in
jeopardy. The extreme decline in farms in the
commonwealth bespeaks an end to not only small family
farms and subsequently, a way of life, but also an
important source of income that will be at best,
difficult to replace.
The state’s horse
industry is facing increasing competition from other
states. The crown of the horse kingdom of the world
sits uneasily on the commonwealth. More and more races
are taking place throughout the United States. Florida
now proudly proclaims the “Sunshine State” to be the
horse capital of America, if not the world. Neighboring
West Virginia has already taken a goodly portion of
Kentucky’s signature horse industry.
Coal, one of
Kentucky’s greatest natural assets, is under siege. The
coal industry is faced with difficult choices—clean up
the process of mining coal, and clean up the pollutants
caused from its burning or face an uncertain future.
The cost for both options will not be cheap. In turn,
the consumer will have to pay more for the energy
produced by the “burning rock.”
international visitors to Kentucky observe the beauty of
the land or will they notice that thousands of acres of
prime agricultural land is now being covered with the
houses of an ever growing suburbia? Perhaps so, perhaps
not. The land, just as the horse, is symbolic of the
commonwealth. To Kentuckians, the land is an extension
of themselves. The rolling hills, the mountains, the
secluded hollows, the pastures and forests bespeaks far
more than real-estate—it is life itself.
Will visitors to
Kentucky see a people that are confident about their
future and their future of their state or will they
observe a people unsure of their place in a changing
world? Moreover, will they note a well-educated
citizenry or encounter Kentuckians who display a marked
lack of education? Historically education in the
commonwealth has been weak, but for a few exceptions.
Does Kentucky’s public schools provide an education that
enables the state’s children to meet the demands of
Kentucky has far
too many adults who can not read. The ability to
communicate in writing is fast disappearing. Some
college freshmen are not capable of writing a coherent
sentence. Their knowledge of the basics of mathematics,
science, history, and the English language leave much to
be desired. Will visitors to Kentucky conclude that the
state does not emphasize education?
What will visitors
to Kentucky say about the growing number of immigrants
who may or not be legal? Does the commonwealth have the
resources to control its borders or do some Kentuckians
view immigrants as a cheap source of expendable labor?
Kentuckians are a
proud people. They love their state, and they want
non-Kentuckians to love it as much as they do. There
are faults in each state, and Kentucky is no different.
There are remedies to the state’s shortcomings, but they
will not be inexpensive.
History shows that
a well-educated people are a productive people.
Education must constantly be monitored. The quality of
public schools needs to constantly improve, as does the
quality of colleges and universities. A sound education
is the key to the success of an individual as well as to
the success of a state or nation.
Kentucky is far too important to let die a slow death.
The commonwealth’s soil is rich, and productive, but
there must be a replacement crop for tobacco.
Diversified farming will help, but there still is a need
for a crop that will provide a major income for the
pioneer Kentucky knew the potential of the land on which
they chose to live. They put their hearts and their
backs into making Kentucky a rich and influential
state. Their legacy is a powerful incentive to their
descendents, and to those who still choose the
commonwealth as their home.
Kentucky is by far
the most beautiful state in the country, and Kentuckians
should be proud to show it. The commonwealth’s history
is rich and intriguing. No state can boast of as many
colorful characters as Kentucky. Daniel Boone and the
hardy frontiersmen, who helped forge the state, loom
Kentucky history, there are events that will fascinate
those who come to Kentucky. Pride in the state’s
accomplishments is appropriate. When people leave the
commonwealth to return to their respective homes, they
should leave with a sense of admiration and wonder for
they have heard and seen. From natural beauty, to
crafts, music, horses, and all that represents the
state, the visitor will be overwhelmed with the
superlatives describing Kentucky.
Most of all, the
people of Kentucky are the richest resource of all. The
state’s hospitality, the friendliness, and the warmth
generated by the genuine smiles young and old alike,
will impress those who are fortunate enough to enter the
borders of Kentucky.
abound in the state, but its people have the capability
to overcome any obstacle. Each time someone visits
Kentucky or hears about the state, hopefully with the
dedicated work of Kentuckians, those individuals will
remember all that is positive regarding this very unique
In the words of
William Lightfoot Visscher, one of Kentucky’s poets,
May Peace and
Plenty live with you
Through all the
And ever pure your
In all its shining
As our love, Kentucky.