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Why Kansas? Inspiring Words ...

Before the music started at the fifth annual Symphony in the Flint Hills [June 2010], [then] Governor Mark Parkinson presented the audience with a virtuoso performance of his own.

Parkinson's welcome address at the concert, held on a patch of prairie near Cottonwood Falls, was an extraordinary salute to Kansas. Below is a transcript of his speech as a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in a place with so many outstanding places, things, and people ....

"I've been asked to give the welcome speech tonight, and I just can't do it. I can't give that same old ordinary, boring, safe welcome that you've heard me give so many times.

I can't do it because tonight is no ordinary, boring night. Tonight is a night that I can only describe as a pure Kansas night.

So, I've decided to do something a little different, because I'd rather you think that I was a little crazy than to think I was boring on a night as special as tonight.

Because tonight is about a synergy that can't exist anywhere else in the world. It's about what happens when you bring the best of what man has to offer -- incredibly talented musicians -- and you pair them with the best that God has given us -- the Flint Hills.

It's about an event that can't happen on the East or West Coast, and it's about people on the East or West coasts not even knowing about the Flint Hills.

It's a night about not caring that they don't know about the Flint Hills, and, after the BP disaster, hoping they never find out.
And because it's a pure Kansas night, it's about sunflowers and wheat, and Jayhawks, and Wildcats. And because it's about the whole State, it's also about Tigers -- the Fort Hays kind, not the Missouri kind -- it's about Ichabods, it's about Hornets, it's about Gorillas, and it's about Wheat Shockers.

It's about all the unique things we've built in Kansas for the last 150 years, from the Brookville Hotel to the amazing Lindsborg (Sandzen Art) Gallery.

And it's about all the things that God has given us in this incredible State - our incredible state parks, Cheyenne Bottoms, the Chalk Pyramids, and the stunning Flint HIlls that we have right here.

It's even about the hokey things in the State the people laugh about. It's about Big Brutus, it's about the Garden of Eden, it's about the five-legged cow in Oakley. Because when they laugh, we know we can laugh at ourselves and we know it's what makes us real.

It's about the fact that 150 years ago Quantrill really did invade Lawrence and he really did kill 183 innocent men, women, and children because Missouri wanted to make this a slave state. And it's about the fact that the Free Staters pushed them back and made this State what it is today.

It's about the fact that even though that happened 150 years ago, no one here is ever going to forget those raids and most of us do everything we can to avoid Missouri because we might accidentally spend some money in that state that one time invaded us.

It's about everything in Kansas, like Mike Hayden's accent and living in the State so long you don't notice that he has an accent anymore.

Let me tell you what it's not about. It's not about those people who, when they find out you're from Kansas, ask you where Dorothy lives. It's not about those people who, when you cross the State line and you're somewhere unusual look at you and say, "Toto, I guess we're not in Kansas anymore." Because that was mildly funny when you were 8 years old, but for the last 3,000 times, it's just been downright annoying.

But it is about people who understand that "The Wizard of Oz" has nothing to do with Dorothy and Toto and the red ruby slippers, and it doesn't even have anything to do with the Tin Man and the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. It's about people who understand that "The Wizard of Oz" has everything to do with wisdom and passion and courage, and it makes sense that it's in Kansas because we have an abundance of all three right here in this State.

And tonight is about knowing we've had a progressive past and that through whatever difficulties we encounter in the future we know we're going to make it to the stars.

Tonight is about an incredible synergy that's not possible anywhere else. It's only possible here, now, in Kansas, in the Flint Hills, with you, me, and everyone else who is here.

So, please join me in experiencing this unbelievable synergy, a synergy I can only describe as a pure Kansas night."

This article was written by The Topeka-Capital Journal Editorial Board. It was reprinted with permission by the Kansas Governing Journal and can be found at