Akin to Abraham Lincoln, I was born in Kentucky. But I never considered becoming the president. In fact, I never ran for any political office, being content to influence policy, not to make it. Eventually, I was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and Jefferson City.

I was born in a log cabin near the Green River in Kentucky. The river, normally placid, was flooding.

We lived in the flood plain, and the doctor who delivered me in 1941 arrived in a boat that he tied to the logs of the front porch.

How he knew when to arrive, my parents never discussed. But arrive he did, and he did all the things that doctors do to escort me from my mother’s womb to squalling life. That was 80 years ago.

While my memories of early childhood are pretty much nonexistent, I do remember when I was about 5 years old, the electric company — a rural electric association probably — drilled a hole in our front yard and inserted a large pole, which a few days later had wires attached and a few days after that, we had electricity.

But, being accustomed to living without such, we had no electric appliances. The sturdy house — we no longer lived in a log cabin — was heated with fireplaces that required wood; my mother cooked with a stove, which also required wood; light was supplied by kerosene lamps.

We did not know what to do with our newly available electricity, but later we had light bulbs and a furnace, which still burned wood.

When I entered the first grade, I walked a mile to the school bus stop, which was at a general store, and akin to us was surviving just fine without electricity.

One of the first things they did was to install a refrigerated soft drink dispenser so my compatriots waiting for the school bus could drink a cold soda.

My father took a job in the nearest town to make ends meet. He left early and returned late. We had several money-making ventures — growing and selling watermelons, growing cucumbers in some sort of a contractual arrangement with Heinz — but those ventures resulted in little cash, hence the job in town.

Now, however, things have changed. From an early childhood without electricity, we now think it is a hardship when the internet goes down or when we are temporarily without electric power.

From the horse-and-wagon days to the days of electric vehicles and all-wheel drive, what used to take all day now takes a few minutes.

Some things, however, do not change. There are still those among us who would rather ingest a medicine designed to rid horses, cows, and sheep of worms rather than take a shot approved by the government.

I grew up in the South, where fears of the government were commonplace and mostly justifiable, as long as you were white and male, but those same fears are now with us 80 years later.

There are many other changes, but as a French author observed about 400 years ago, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

I am still looking forward to the next 80 years. Or maybe not, given what is happening in Texas, Florida and other Southern states.

Maybe things will become better, but right now it appears as if things are getting worse. From being one, we are now divided.

But I am, if nothing else, an optimist, and hope that the governors of Texas and Florida will come to their senses.

But as Abraham Lincoln said, “a house divided cannot stand.” I trust that we are not so divided that the USA, a pillar of democracy, will continue to thrive.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

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