KY@225: Join the Conversation

(Editor’s Note: As the Commonwealth celebrates its 225th birthday, the Kentucky Historical Society has been traveling throughout the state talking with our fellow Kentuckians. You can join the conversation Saturday, June 17, at 3 p.m. at Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park in Jessamine County.)

Since January, the Kentucky Historical Society has been to nearly 40 counties and talked with more than a thousand people about what makes “Kentucky, Kentucky.” We’ve visited with first-generation Kentuckians at Louisville’s Americana Center and long-established Kentucky families at the Kentucky Daughters of the American Revolution meeting. We’ve chatted with young people during National History Day regional competitions and with working folks at Rotary lunches and civic club meetings.

The Kentuckians we’ve spoken with so far are proud of the Commonwealth’s natural beauty, extensive state parks system, cultural heritage and industries. Each stop has produced some unique regional contributions to Kentucky history. In Northern Kentucky, for example, the folks at the Behringer-Crawford Museum highlighted Pappas Candy Store and the Rabbit Hash General Store as gems; in Scottsville, the Rotary reminded us that the first female elected to the Kentucky General Assembly and the man who raised the U.S. flag on Tripoli were hometown heroes.

Kentucky, according to our participants, is a warm and welcoming place. Kentuckians, themselves, exemplify that hospitality. Newcomers and long-time citizens of the Commonwealth, alike, have focused on the friendly, creative and empowering examples of famous and everyday Kentuckians in their conversations with us. From Muhammad Ali and Abraham Lincoln to long-serving public servants and local school teachers, Kentuckians are incredibly proud of each other.

Our listening tour conversations, however, are not just celebrations of great Kentuckians and the things that we proudly share with the rest of the world. We’ve asked participants to also spend time discussing and reflecting on the challenges that face the Commonwealth at her 225th birthday.

At every listening tour stop we’ve heard concerns of educational inequality, economic stagnation and the opioid crisis. In Washington County, participants discussed a lack of affordable housing and limited job opportunities as challenges facing their community, while in Ashland participants want to create more educational opportunities for adults and non-traditional learners.

The challenges Kentucky faces at 225 are not insurmountable. The men, women and young folks we’ve spoken with are motivated to address them so we won’t be having the same conversations on our 250th birthday. In Greenville, for instance, a group of citizens is interested in starting a committee to review historic properties and create a preservation plan for the county. In Meade County, one parent wrote his legislator to request Kentucky history be taught across the curriculum and in more grades so students could connect to their state history, see value in the humanities and be better and more fully engaged citizens.

These conversations have inspired, motivated and challenged KHS to better collect, preserve and promote Kentucky’s history on our campus in Frankfort and throughout the Commonwealth.

For the remainder of the calendar year, we will continue to tour the state, talking with as many Kentuckians as we can. If you want to host a listening tour stop, please call Amanda Higgins at (502) 564-1792, ext. 4440.

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