Shouting the Ohio State football spelling of Ohio as the title of this post is sort of a joke because I really dislike football, and I am annoyed by the level of importance it's given here in this country and in this state. But yelling O-H-I-O with people does demonstrate a sense of pride for the whole state. It's a secret handshake. For those of you not following college football, here's how it works: someone yells O-H, and then someone else yells I-O. No. 1 graduated from Ohio State and has heard the "handshake" where she lives in Berkeley. Husband once "shook hands" with an Ohio fan at the airport in London. It's everywhere.
With state pride in mind, here is today's opinion piece printed in Small Town Newspaper:
Today is officially Statehood Day for Ohio, commemorating the day in 1803 when the Ohio General Assembly met for the first time, the day Ohio’s government officially went into operation. The settlers here had to clear a hurdle or two before they could be named the 17th state of the Union. The law required a territory to have at least 60,000 residents not counting indigenous tribes, and this territory only had around 45,000. It took President Jefferson’s signing of the Enabling Act to grant Ohio statehood without the minimum population.
That would not be the first hurdle Ohio would face, and throughout its short history, its residents have stepped up with long-term vision and creative problem solving. Ohio was the first state to develop a professional fire department, to use police cars and to provide a community with an ambulance service. The first airplane was built here, as was the first car and the first cement roadway on which to drive it.
Cleveland became the first city with a traffic light and the first city to be lighted with electricity. Oberlin College became the first coed and interracial college in the country; and one of its graduates, John Mercer Langston, became the first African American ever to be elected into public office.
Inventors from Ohio gave us the hot dog, the cash register, the light bulb, the phonograph, chewing gum, air conditioning, the Richter scale, Teflon and ice cream on a stick. Ohio is the home state of the first man to orbit the earth and the first man to land on the moon. It is responsible for seven U.S. presidents, accomplished military leaders and Bob Hope.
Ohio is also the home of the first and only blind marching band in the country. The Ohio State School for the Blind in Columbus now has a 35-member marching band, with each musician being guided by a sighted aide. They like to call themselves “The first blind band in the land,” and on the field, they play “Le Regiment” while spelling out OHIO in Braille. Their band director, Dan Kelley who created the band to play at The Ohio School for the Deaf football games, said, “If it can’t be done, lets do it anyway.” And he has led his band all the way to march in the Rose Bowl parade this past January.
Ohioans have achieved a remarkable number of successes since the state’s beginnings, but even though we now face challenges even more daunting than those of our predecessors, it seems certain we can follow their examples of leadership and innovation. We have crippling poverty in our urban and rural areas, increasingly high unemployment, underfunded schools and libraries and a shrinking state budget. We also have the ability to match these predicaments with solutions and to replace the rust and decay with fresh ideas.
Surely a state that can produce the likes of Thomas Edison, Neil Armstrong and even Phyllis Diller can raise up innovators who can lead us over or around our current obstacles. Certainly there are others like Dan Kelley who believe that “if it can’t be done, let’s do it anyway.”
My family moved to Ohio 22 years ago when my husband’s job sent him in this direction, and I have now lived in this state longer than I have lived in any other. I never imagined I would settle here; and I didn’t arrive until first living in Alabama, Indiana, Illinois and New Jersey. But here I am smack dab in the middle of the place and putting down roots as if I had been born here.
This has become our home state and is where we have built a business, raised our children, invested in the community and made friends as close as brothers or sisters. While others leave Ohio for better weather, for better job opportunities or in search of a metropolitan town that doesn’t consistently place at the top of a list of poorest or unhappiest cities, here we are.
So, it’s with a sense of ownership that I recall the grander days of this state, a state of firsts. And it’s with the same sense that, on Statehood Day, I root for us all to clear our many hurdles.