Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

April 18, 2012

Neal: 2012 election will determine our ‘Bicentennial Governor’

Gregg, Pence want education at the forefront of celebration

Our next governor will have a unique opportunity to refine Indiana’s reputation and mold its future. That’s true of every governor, of course, but it will be even more so for John Gregg or Mike Pence because one of them will oversee Indiana’s bicentennial.

Two hundred years of statehood is a big deal, and both candidates want to capitalize on it.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of being governor in the years approaching and celebrating our bicentennial,” said Pence. “You have to remember I’m a history major from Hanover College. I love this stuff.”

“I was 12 when Indiana had our sesquicentennial — 150 years,” Gregg recalled. “I remember my dad grew a beard, my little hometown had a festival. And some people tried to dress in pioneer garb and stuff like that, which was really fun.”

The winner of the Nov. 6 election will inherit a 13-member bicentennial commission assembled by Gov. Mitch Daniels and chaired by outgoing Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, a Republican, and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat.

The commission has met twice but has no money or staff, so it’s angling for a line item in the next biennial budget. Skillman and Hamilton are in contact with Pence and Gregg, respectively, about the commission’s plans, which are centering on the theme of “Hoosier Homecoming.”

In his January State of the State address, Daniels announced the commission’s first initiative: the formation of a Bicentennial Nature Trust to acquire land for trail, park and wetland projects that would be “places of beauty for future generations.” Daniels said the trust would be the sequel to the state’s major centennial initiative of 1916, the creation of the state park system.

While the trust will be part of the Daniels legacy, Gregg and Pence are both history buffs eager to put education at the forefront.

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