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How do you describe the Liberal, Kansas, experience? E-mail
Opinion
Tuesday, 27 March 2018 13:11

By EARL WATT

• Leader & Times

With all the media attention surrounding Liberal during the current trial of three bombing suspects who allegedly planned to bomb a Somali complex in Garden City, a number of other news outlets, magazines and documentarians have stopped by the office to try to get a feel for the local community.alt

For them, living in Liberal is something they can’t quite understand, or at least, want to try to understand better. 

It’s not something we think about on a daily basis, but being asked repetitively what it means to be from Liberal, I had to consider the answer myself.

It’s not easy to explain, especially for someone who has spent 99 percent of his life within a three-mile radius. With the exception of a handful of vacations and travel to ball games, I have been quite comfortable in calling Liberal home since the moment I was born at Southwest Medical Center.

I have more friends outside of Liberal because our paths crossed right here.

Most people will not dispute that Liberal is rarely a lifelong destination. More people move on than settle down here.

So how do you define a group of people that may not be here for very long alongside those who plan on spending the rest of their natural born lives here?

With much contemplation, I believe I have discovered what ties us all together — opportunity.

Everyone either came here or stayed here for a chance. We all saw something here that could either provide something we needed to help us reach a life goal, or we saw something that made us want to call this place home.

Either way, opportunity came because of something we did here.

It might have been that we attended high school here and was able to take that foundation and start a job.

It could be we took classes at Seward County Community College and was used that opportunity as a step to another, and another.

Maybe a job transfered someone here to learn, or maybe it was the first place to practice medicine, or to teach a class, to be a coach or to become an officer of the law.

For others, the American Dream took root here when they were able to have their first job in America, whether it was cutting beef or working in the oil patch or some other industry.

And some find their way to Liberal to suit up as a Liberal Bee Jay with hopes of one day playing in the Major Leagues. We’ve seen it happen for many athletes, and while Liberal is not where their careers ended, it certainly was a place where they began.

That’s what Liberal offers to everyone who finds their way here — a chance to become something better than when they arrived.

The American Dream is alive and well here, and we have all been able to experience it for ourselves.

Don Rash shared with me his move to Liberal to operate a Phillips 66 gas station. He eventually bought the station and grew his business. His story is Liberal’s story, and as he has aged, he has continued to make Liberal a better place along the way for the rest of us, helping create the Mid-America Air Museum, Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz exhibit, working as an elected leader to help develop the overpass, downtown fountain, the Seward County Activity Center and more. But all of this happened because he came to Liberal seeking an opportunity, and he was willing to work for it. He not only found it for himself, but invested back for others.

That’s what I tell all these other media outlets who are trying to understand Liberal. 

Liberal is a community of opportunity, and many have embraced their chance at something better, whether it be a first-wave immigrant or a doctor, someone managing a gas station who ends up building his own energy company, or women who worked in real estate and eventually started their own agencies like Lidia Hook-Gray and Sammy Cope.

For most, their journey won’t end here. But they will take what they’ve learned here from our schools and colleges, from our technical opportunities and even from or churches, civic institutions and job experiences, and it will provide them the foundation for moving forward.

Cliff Abbott once told me our best export was our people. When you understand what that means, you understand what Liberal is.

 

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About The High Plains Daily Leader

The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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