During a recent cemetery walk in Bloomington (’tis the season for cemetery walks as you probably know), I learned a little more about Adlai Stevenson than I previously knew.
He was a Bloomington native, and grandson of Vice President Adlai Stevenson on his dad’s side and Jesse Fell, a comrade of Abraham Lincoln, on his mom’s. He served as Governor of Illinois from 1949-1953, lost three runs for President, and was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1961-65.
I feel confident that Stevenson’s feelings of patriotism described in the following were a direct result of his central Illinois, Corn Belt, rural America ties.
Agriculture is the economic backbone of Illinois. Though the state is famous for the city of Chicago (built on the cattle industry – thus “The Bulls”) and for a corrupt political system that elects and convicts governors one after another, farmers and farming are the silent foundation upon which Illinois is built.
Slow and steady wins the race on these farms. Their owners toil and sweat, make a few bucks, sleep with a clear conscience and do it all again the next day. In the process, they have literally created wealth – from one seed comes many and from many seeds come jobs, dollars spent, and new industries created.
The patriotism of the farmer is inherent and inherited. When Chicago corporate employees can pack up and leave due to high taxes or corrupt government – when family businesses can relocate to other states or corporations move their headquarters to other countries – farmers can’t move the land. They stay. They try to make the state and the country better with the tranquil, steady dedication of a lifetime.
Farmers literally own a piece of America. We all do, I guess, and we are all a line in the story of this great country, but with their dirty hands and honest hearts, farmers care for her rolling prairies, her wooded knolls, her bubbling creeks. They work with her and toil alongside her to create the backbone of a nation that celebrates loud, boisterous characters on TV with opinions that undermine everything they believe in.
Still, they proceed. They are dedicated to the life their great-great-great grandfather’s began before Illinois became a state and calm in their pursuit of the greatest promise America offers to them: the pursuit of happiness.
They find joy in that black dirt. In the promise of life in the spring. In the hope of a harvest in the fall.
I’m convinced that Mr. Stevenson was thinking of the Illinois farmers he knew when he described the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. It perfectly describes the farmers I know, and farmers just don’t change that much from their fathers and grandfathers before them.
This Election Day, focus not on the frenzied burst of emotion, but on the dedication of a lifetime that makes a patriot a patriot and America the greatest nation in the world.
Thank you, Mr. Adlai Stevenson, for such a lovely comment on patriotism and a nod to farmers that built America that will endure forever.
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director