To The Stars Through Difficulties

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Ad astra per aspera is Latin for "Through hardships to the stars" or "To the stars through difficulties." It's also the motto of my home state, Kansas. Today is Kansas Day. It's the date in 1861 - January 29th - when Kansas entered the Union.

The people who populated what became Kansas in the mid 19th Century were a hardy lot. They left "civilization" on the east coast of North America to venture to the Great Plains - the sea of grass  one writer called it. They left family and friend behind to take a chance on a new possibility.

My wife and I made the reverse move almost three years ago from Kansas to Massachusetts. We live in the age where seeing and speaking to family across the miles is as easy as making a phone call. These people were likely never going to see their family and friends again. I envy the strength, the courage, and the determination it took to make that move.

Early on, Kansans dealt with mostly the difficulty side of that aphorism. They dealt with cold and heat and wind practically unknown back east. They birthed a state torn by strifes that would eventually lead to the American Civil War.

Both slave and free supporters had rushed to populate the Kansas territory - Bloody Kansas - in hopes it would be admitted as free or slave state. In fact, Kansas' admission into the Union was among the final straws for the nascent Confederacy. After it was admitted as a free state, battles broke out with next door Missouri - a slave state. It could be argued that the first shots of the Civil War didn't occur at Fort Sumter, but rather along the Kansas-Missouri border.

In the century and a half since, Kansas has reached for those stars in many ways. It is a key part of the world's productive "bread basket." The average Kansas farmer feeds 134 Americans and more people overseas. It's populated with salt of the Earth people, often misunderstood by their fellow Americans living on the busy coasts. Western Kansas literally has some of the darkest skies in the United States; perfect for gazing at those stars we are reaching for.

Ad astra per aspera. Isn't that what all of us, wherever we live, are trying to achieve? Aren't we all trying to overcome our difficulties and reach for the stars? If you are, you may not be a Kansan by birth, but you are a Kansan at heart.

Ray Davis
for 6 Sense Media