SLIDESHOW: Kansas celebrates 150 years of statehood

Elise Barnett

This weekend Kansas celebrated its 150 years as a state of the Union with events and memorials across the city of Topeka.

On Friday, the Washburn University Center for Kansas Studies held there annual Kansas Day presentation featuring former Kansas Governor John Carlin.

Carlin was introduced by Washburn professor Bob Beatty, a member of the Political Science Department and Fellow for the Center for Kansas Studies. Beatty listed Carlin’s numerous contributions to the state of Kansas and the United States that extend well beyond his years as Governor.

“If I had known you were going to tell all the great things I did while Governor,” Carlin joked to Beatty and the crowd. “I’m going to have to shorten my speech.”

Carlin spoke about Kansas history with a focus on political issues to a crowd of Washburn students, faculty and community members and offered his idea of where Kansas is capable of going in the future and suggestions how to help Kansas reach that potential.

“25 years ago I taught a course here at Washburn on Kansas Government,” said Carlin.

Remarking that it was not only an anniversary for the state of Kansas but also an anniversary for his return to Washburn. Carlin was asked to speak at a similar occasion when he was at Washburn 25 years ago and began his speech with some statistics from 1986.

“A postage stamp was 22 cents, we were paying up to 89 cents for a gallon of gasoline, IBM introduced their first laptop, and no one had to be asked to turn off their cell phone or blackberry,” Carlin noted. “While things have indeed changed, there are common challenges, concerns, as well as opportunities that transcend the years and tie our experiences today back to 1986.”

Carlin then spoke on his strong belief in the importance of history that he found reinforced during his ten years at archivist for the United States, a position he was appointed to by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

“Kansans have always faced challenges. That is why our state motto is ‘Ad Astra per Aspera’ or to the starts with difficulty,” Carlin said. “We Kansans have always stepped up, adapted, and made pragmatic changes to ensure a better future for our children, for our state, and for our nation.”

Throughout his speech Carlin quoted national heroes and leaders such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

“It is easy to be pessimistic today as we gather. Financial recovery is slow and state resources are limited. Projections for a quick recovery are rare if not non-existent,” said Carlin. “But I remain an optimist.”

Carlin proposes that a plan including both restrictive budgets and smart investments will help Kansas eventually overcome the current economic crisis, and believes that the areas of education and bio-science hold promising futures in the state of Kansas.

After speaking, Carlin opened the floor for questions where he posed his thoughts on the water crisis, railroads, aviation.

Other events around the Topeka included the unveiling of the 150th anniversary of Kansas stamp which features an old style windmill surrounded by a field of high-tech wind turbines. The stamp signifies the intentions of current Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to make Kansas a major player in the field of wind energy.

The stamp was unveiled at a reception Thursday Jan. 27 at the Kansas History Museum to kick off a series of events taking place at the museum.

On Friday Jan. 28 the Kansas History Museum celebrated the Kansas anniversary by opening its doors to the students of Kansas. Students were granted free admission to the museum which opened its feature exhibit “150 Things I Love About Kansas” the same day.

The museum had special activities and performances just outside the entrance to the exhibit including songs and dances performed by American Indian performer Dennis Rogers and stories and folk songs performed by folk artist Rosie Cutrer.

The Kansas History Museum held a similarly busy and entertaining crowd of activities for its Kansas Day celebration held on Jan. 29, exactly 150 years after Kansas became a state on Jan. 29, 1861, but what seemed to draw the most attention at the museum was the commemorative exhibit featuring 150 items to represent Kansas and Kansas History.

The exhibit includes exacting 150 things that represent some facet of Kansas history on top of what is on continuous display in the museum’s main gallery. With special sections on “The Wizard of Oz”, sunflowers, weather, and wheat, it is a sight well worth the $5 museum entry fee which was temporarily reduced to $1.50 on Kansas Day itself.

The exhibit also features a variety of items focusing on the people of Kansas from  a quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower to a Plains Indian child’s tipi. The exhibit even includes a medal given to African American educator Mamie Williams by Washburn University in 1973. This exhibit will remain open until Dec. 31, 2011.

The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library also celebrated Kansas turning 150 with a presentation on the life of Charles Curtis on Jan. 25 and is also honoring the 150 years of Kansas with a special art exhibit sponsored by National Endowment for the Humanities funding. Their Kansas 150 art exhibit remain on display through Mar. 18, 2011.

The library is also holding a video event featuring 52 videos honoring the 150 years of Kansas that began Feb. 2 and will run until May 30, 2011, as well as a discussion of the book “John Brown: The Legend Revisited” by Merrill D. Peterson being held Feb. 2, 2011.

For more information on library events visit its website or call 785-580-4400.