New Beginnings (In Indiana): A Reflection Offered at US Town Meeting

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Last week I spent four days in what is considered America’s heartland, specifically in Indianapolis and nearby Hoosier territory to visit four distinct colleges: DePauw University, not to be confused with DePaul in Chicago; The Rose-Hulman Institute, a so-called MIT of the Midwest; Butler University, where the well-known final basketball scene of the 1986 movie, Hoosiers, was filmed (and for most of you who were born well after the movie’s release, I recommend you see it); and finally, Purdue University, a Big Ten school that is at the tops for producing astronauts.

Aside from passing at 65 miles per hour a large-wheeled tractor on highway 40 on my way to Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute, expansive farmland and flat drives from college to college got me thinking of the meaning of Hoosier, and specifically, when the term turned to an endearing or proud title for Indiana folk. If you look up Hoosier, the origin suggests a meaning related to “a potent connotation of coarseness in manners, appearance and intellect.” Or, in other words, a rustic, a bumpkin, or roughneck. This is also where I was reminded of the power of new beginnings.

You could say the derogatory Hoosier is an insult, or you can say that the hard work, essential work of those in the heartland decided to embrace the term and live up to the strength that the name suggests. I’m sure that is what happened.

So, here I am privileged to begin a new season, a new beginning in Indiana. And, common to many new beginnings, a rejuvenated spirit is present, but this time, it was palpable among the students on each campus. Sure, the day was a sunny, early fall one with students abound. The energy given off by the thousands of students was surely that of a new school year. Whether new or returning, there was a sense of hope and optimism on their faces – and then, I thought of the new school year here at VMS. Still young, it is up to me and you to carry its beginning into a story that ends with a positive connotation. It’s never too late. Perhaps, just in time, to do it all again, yet at some point, your face will be those optimistic, proud, and hopeful faces on the college campus.

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