Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Believing in Oklahoma; Fighting for the Next Generation

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm of Durant

Hello again, everybody! Over the next several weeks, the celebration of Oklahoma’s Centennial will be in full swing.

Compared to most of our neighboring states, Oklahoma is young. In fact, most communities in my Senate district are older than Oklahoma. As young as Oklahoma is, it is remarkable what we have achieved.

During my recent tour of area schools, one question almost always came up. “What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Oklahoma?”

For me, the answer is simple. Our biggest challenge is simply believing in ourselves and our state. For much of our short history, Oklahomans have been convinced that our state cannot compete and win – except on the football field.

That thinking has its roots in the dark days of the Dust Bowl, when thousands of Oklahomans were forced off the land and had to make their way to what they hoped would be greener pastures in other states. Our struggles dampened our spirit, and that was difficult to overcome.

In fact, a recent governor spent a great deal of time and effort telling everything that was wrong with our state, both in travels around Oklahoma and across the nation. I see our state as being kind of like a family; you don’t air your dirty laundry where everyone can see it.

Certainly, our state has challenges; we can do better in so many areas. But, to focus on the negative at the expense of the positive has a troubling affect.

Our achievements as a state can get overshadowed by efforts at partisan politics – and neither side is completely innocent in that effort. Sometimes in politics, the trick is to make the other side look so bad that your side gets the votes by default. While that sometimes might be a good political strategy, it is a poor foundation on which to base a state’s future.

More important than the political fortunes of either party is the futures of the children who will live most, if not all, of their lives in Oklahoma’s second century. We all have a responsibility to fight for policies we believe will give that new generation of Oklahomans more opportunity and a better chance to become everything God intended for them to become.

This is an unusual “Senate Minute”; I am not writing about any specific issue, nor am I taking a stand on any particular subject. My point is this: as we debate how best to build a bright future, I believe we have a responsibility to conduct those debates in an environment that moves us forward as much as the policies we consider.

While that may be a tall order, I believe a state that accomplished as much as we have in only 100 years is more than up to the challenge.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

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