Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Four Day Snapshot in Time - Nebraska Humanities

My friend Molly O'Holleran penned this synopsis of a four-day time period in the life of Nebraskans. For all of you who think Nebraska is a cultural wasteland, I wanted to share it, albeit belatedly to show you just how rich in wonderful activities we are.

Proud to be a Nebraskan: A Four Day Snapshot in Time

November 4-7, 2009

Tim and I live in a rural town in Nebraska. Days can be routine. We have had three blizzards in North Platte, and it is only the beginning of November! The farmers are waiting for the fields to dry out to harvest corn and soybeans. As Tim was working at home, I headed down I-80 to the 2009 National Humanities Conference at the Omaha Doubletree Hotel. I pondered what difference the humanities can make in one’s life. Let me share some personal reflections with you in case you weren’t able to attend.

Wednesday evening my daughter Brigid and son Danny joined me at the Joslyn to dine and to hear columnist Matt Miller speak at the 14th Annual Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities. He challenged us to look at the 21st century of global reality. He shocked us into the realization that we need to give up preconceived notions on traditional steps to success. The economic reality provides us with opportunities for adaptation and collaboration on a multi-national scale. He tackled executive pay, a new social contract, and middle-class jobs. Who will answer the call?

Thursday evening was spent at the beautiful new corporate headquarters of the Union Pacific Railroad. It is energy efficient and architecturally pleasing. What can I say to a company that celebrates wellness and practices it? The reception food was fresh and well balanced. The beverages were flowing. The music was a mix of Native American Music and yoga!

Have you ever been to Film Streams’ Ruth Sokolof Theater? Later that evening Danny and I learned a lot about Chinese Americans’ history in films. Multicultural exploration brings greater understanding of walking in other Americans’ shoes.

Friday arrived. If you ever get the opportunity to hear Ted Kooser, do it. He is a quiet man who observes life and absorbs the human element that makes it memorable. His melodic voice sneaks into the nooks and crannies of you heart and echoes. Wow!

James Leach spoke at the luncheon. In August 2009, he became Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is a man that lacks the Paul Harvey voice but masterfully articulates the big picture. Leach is driven to promote civic decency during these uncertain times. We can renew public life through the humanities.

The Walter Capps Memorial Lecture was a signature event showcasing Bob Kerrey at the Joslyn Art Museum. What a guy! Life has presented him with numerous challenges in his personal and civic life. He has continually emerged as an engaging person with a positive authentic attitude. What was most refreshing about his speaking style was his willingness to say, “ I don’t know the answer to that.” Life will be tough for American’s children. That is life! He encouraged us to be mindful of the financial obligations we are leaving to the next generation. We need to pay attention to our carbon footprint.

My sister Ann Cox invited me to see White Christmas. It was playing at the Orpheum. Do your remember those simpler days? Loyalty and friendship never goes out of style!

On Saturday, a van of very fortunate people visited the Philip Schrager Collection for a tour of his contemporary art. Hello, world! This is a collection reflects the big picture of our society in recent years. It celebrates the full spectrum of human emotion. The overwhelming feeling I got was to embrace life in all its extremes with courage and humor. Mr. Schrager has captured the energy and whimsy of a dynamic global culture. We work to provide sustenance, but art and creation gives us a chance to celebrate the unique joy of being human.

The Smithsonian Touring Museum on Main Street Exhibit “New Harmonies” celebrated American Roots Music. American is the birthplace of great music—from blues and country western to folk and gospel. North Omaha’s Love’s Jazz & Arts Center has a chef named Mike who knows how to cook great fried catfish! Eat it with your fingers as you listen to outstanding jazz and the spoken word.

Saturday night Danny and I went to Brundibar at the Rose Theatre. It is an opera composed by children of the Holocaust. It celebrated courage during a time of great suppression and strife of the Theresienstadt Camp in Czechoslovakia. It is amazing that the Nazis let the opera take place when its great message was to find strength among the weak to fight back against the unreasonable bully.

The landscapes of my heart have been enriched. Other conference attendees remarked how well planned it was. They loved the food for thought and the considerable sustenance. National humanity speakers provided solid ideas that will adapt well in most states. Several people remarked they wanted to stay in Nebraska longer. Omaha has a fascinating history that enticed attendees. Thanks to the Nebraska Humanities Council, staff, event organizers, and volunteers for the outstanding 2009 National Humanities Conference.

Even though this was written about events that occurred more than a month ago, itineraries like this can be scheduled any time in Nebraska. All this and we get to live in one of the most beautiful and friendly states in the nation!

Thank you Molly for sharing this, and thank you for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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