It's no secret how proud I am of my Midwest roots.
And I'm glad I'm not alone.
One of the best aspects of writing this blog feature for the past five years is the interaction with readers and their chance to share their own stories, comments and experiences.
Reader Stacey (Gutt) Cassady is a fellow alum who attended Valparaiso University with me, prior to my graduation in 1992.
She recently contacted me to share that she is now working on her graduate work and has made the topic of "living in the Midwest" one of her study concentrations.
"I'm fairly certain that you might not remember me from VU in the early 90's communications classes, but we were in class together," she explained in an email.
"I earned a BA in English and Communications there and am working toward my MALS in English. Last semester, I had a class with Professor Sponberg called 'New Ideas in Midwestern Literature.' One of the options for the final was to write a Sunday through Thursday series of articles for a local newspaper discussing Midwestern themes. He, along with Holly Simpson at the VU Career Center, suggested that I contact you to share it with readers. Thank you! Stacey (Gutt) Cassady"
So, without any delay, here are the fun and colorful observations of living in the Midwest shared in the introduce to her entertaining and enlightening commentary:
"Yes, I'll admit it. I've lived in the Midwest my whole life. What might not be expected is that I'm proud of it. Yes, I'm proud to live in the breadbasket of America, the Heartland that has sustained this country and others around the world. I'm proud to be from the same part of America that gave birth to people who changed the world.
Abraham Lincoln, claimed by both Illinois and Indiana, was the presidential force behind changing the face of what is American.
A few decades later, a World War II general went on to become president. Born in Kansas, Dwight Eisenhower continued what Lincoln started by integrating the military. The Wright Brothers from Ohio advanced travel and added another level to the military through the ingenuity and stubbornness that allows nothing other than dreams as high as the sky to be achieved. The Wrights' dream allowed Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindberg to reach new heights and John Glenn to reach the stars. Walt Disney, born in Chicago, brought dreams to children. John Deere and his steel plow forever left its mark on the Midwest farmland. From a farm outside of Detroit, Henry Ford was raised with a work ethic and resourcefulness that resulted in the automobile.
And, what would the world do without the fast food dreams of Ray Kroc's golden arches?
Nevertheless, even when considering all these world-changers of the Midwest living and achieving the American Dream, not many have come close to providing the world with the definition of what it means to be American like the Midwestern author.
This area can boast the raising up of pure and honest American authors who reveal the true story of the creation of the American character. While many are familiar with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain, few understand how long and prestigious the list of Midwestern authors actually is.
Many wouldn't even know these authors were from the Midwest. It can, however, be argued well and effectively that Midwestern authors, whether it be novelists, musicians, playwrights, poets, journalists or filmmakers, provide some of the best representations of truly American literature. Because of its thematic content, which directly lends to the defining of "American Dream" and "freedom," no other cross-section of American literature is as accessible, accurate and representative of the character that is American.
So what is this character? It is the gritty, hard-working, underdog that is American. It's reaching goals and fulfilling dreams in spite of seemingly impossible obstacles. It's the honest, "under God" love of this land and the frontier spirit to overcome and be free. Too idealistic? I don't think so. It's that kind of determination and fight that founded this country and made it what it is today and will continue to make this country great if its citizens keep working at it.
It's the spirit that molded the Midwest and defined the American."
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 219.852.4327.