While the weather outside was cold, damp and windy, inside the hall
the atmosphere was warm and friendly as area business people, local
citizens, members of city government as well as county government
all gathered together to hear from LCU President Keith Ray and Dolan
Dalpoas, the president and CEO of Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital.
On the agenda, a discussion of the book "Caught in the Middle:
America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism," by Richard C.
Longworth, led by Ray, took up the first half of the session.
In the second half, Dalpoas led the group through an overview of
the strategic planning process and served as the facilitator in
group discussion on the subject.
Mayor Keith Snyder opened the meeting, thanking all those who had
come out to participate, and going through some additional hand-outs
that had been distributed to participants.
As he prepared to introduce Dr. Ray, the mayor commented that at
the September summit meeting both Ray and Dalpoas had afterward said
that they would be willing to help with presentations.
He brought a laugh from the group when he warned, "So be careful
what you volunteer for because I will use you."
Before he turned the meeting over to Ray, Snyder also passed out
sheets of paper numbered 1 to 10. He asked that each person in
attendance give some thought to who was not in the room but perhaps
should have been.
He asked that they write down names and assured the group that he
would contact those people and encourage them to attend future
"Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of
Globalism," by Richard C. Longworth
"Caught in the Middle" was published in 2008. It takes a
seriously hard look at the Midwest mindset.
Willingly or not, the Midwest has led this nation through many of
its greatest and worst milestones, as is evidenced in the opening
paragraphs of Chapter 1:
The Midwest is the bellwether of America, the spear point
of the American Economy.
It was the frontier when the first pioneers moved west,
across the Alleghenies. The mills of Chicago and the
factories of Detroit powered America's Industrial
revolution. Here commerce boomed and labor wars first raged.
The great reformers – Debs and Dewey, Bryan and La Follette,
Jane Addams and Betty Friedan – sprang from Midwestern soil.
The Great Depression began on Midwestern farms, ten years
before the Crash. When the nation recovered in the 1940's,
the Midwest recovered first, and most spectacularly. When
American industry declined twenty years later, the decline
started in the Rust Belt of the Midwest, along with the
textile towns of New England. Midwestern steel mills,
Midwestern auto factories, and Midwestern television makers
felt the first sting of foreign competition, especially from
Japan, as world markets began to open, long before
Chicago invented the skyscraper. Henry Ford invented
modern manufacturing. Midwestern unions invented the
What happens to America happens first to the Midwest.
Ray opened by offering a commendation to Snyder for having the
initiative to put together the summit program and encouraging the
community to get together and face the issues of Lincoln and Logan
To the audience he said, "I'm grateful for your level of concern,
because I think it's going to take people like you from all walks of
life in Lincoln to get some momentum and try to develop a pace for
what all of us want, I think, is agreeably a better future for
Lincoln and Logan County."
Ray said that the book is something that has hit home for him.
Being a Logan County native who left and came back, Ray says he saw
in Longworth's writings a very accurate, although sometimes
discouraging, description of the Midwestern mindset.
Quoting an article from Atlantic Monthly, Ray said, "Decline-ism
is an inseparable part of the American strength." He expanded the
thought, saying, "We like to hear how bad things are before we make
Quoting again, Ray said, "Americans like to respond to crisis,
and engage a resilience that comes out of the American spirit."
He commented, "Somehow, we like to be at the bottom of the barrel
before we start looking up. I think we're close enough that this
book ("Caught in the Middle") will help us see how the bottom of the
He said that as he prepared to discuss the book with the group,
he wondered just how to approach it.
After much consideration he decided that he would talk about the
three specific divisions he sees in the book: first, "The Current
Reality," or the bad news; second, "Our Vital Assets," or the good
news"; and thirdly, Ray said, "imagining and engineering our
preferred future, which may be what Dolan will do for us later about
strategic thinking for the future."
"So we're going to look at the bad news, the good news and then
we're going to look at how we can make news," he said.
The Bad News
According to another book that Ray has read recently, "The
Hollowing Out of the Middle," "we do a really good job of educating
the highest level of intellectual capacity students in the Midwest.
We graduate them, and we get rid of them. The hollowing out is they
grow up, they get really good, they leave, and they what?"
They never come back.
Ray continued, "We promise that everything will be fine if we
work hard, play by the rules and never complain. The problem is that
when the world changes, we may miss it, leaving us wondering what is
The Midwestern spirit dictates a belief that nothing bad ever
happens here. The reality of the situation, though, is that rural
kids have higher rates of suicide, early child-bearing, alcohol and
drug abuse, plus school shootings occur more frequently in isolated
Ray said this is just part of the reality of where we live today.
The Midwest is becoming the new ghetto, a rural slum so to speak.
Because our well-educated, potentially successful youth of the
region are leaving, the demographic of the Midwest is older, less
educated and poorer than other regions.
Ray extracted what he called "stinging stereotypes" from
"This is a region that distrusts change. This is a region that is
a balanced society, hardworking, religious, stolid and dull."
Longworth also quoted another author who had commented on the
state of mind of people who are born here, actually live here and
don't like to live here. "In other words," Ray explained, "When
you're growing up in high school in Logan County, the only thing you
can think of is growing up and getting out of here."
Also the book identified Midwesterners as being aloof and
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Ray said we don't handle change, let alone revolution. And the
revolution here is the impact of globalism.
Midwesterners tend to stick with what works; if it isn't broke,
don't fix it. The new mindset needs to be: If it isn't broke, break
it. Meaning if it works now, but the world changes, you might miss
what is offered.
Longworth also says that Midwesterners don't have or want
diversity. He wrote, "Global people want to do deals, rural people
want to go hunting."
Ray concluded by saying that in the "Hollowing Out of the Middle"
there are 10 issues that the Midwest must face:
The meth epidemic. Ray said we don't want to know the meth
production in the rural Midwest compared to any other place in
The reality of de-population. Illinois is an exit state; people
just continue to leave and go to other places.
Rural poverty; the "New Ghetto" has been socially and
The extinction of the family
The immigration factor
Attitude and disposition toward change
Ray asked: How do you respond to the things Longworth has said
about the bad news?
Roger Matson, the owner of Action Rentals, spoke up and said that
part of the problem is how we are raised. He spoke specifically
about learning about politics from parents and being told what to
He noted also that as kids we are taught a certain philosophy:
"People who have money will always have money, and those who don't,
Ray asked why the "have not's" believe they can never have -- did
someone tell them that? -- and Andi Hake of the chamber of commerce
said that it is indeed what they are told.
She said "have not" parents seem to tell their kids that they
won't ever be better than the family they were born in.
Kevin Bateman, Logan County's newest board member, said that he
felt one thing that was holding back the people of Logan County was
what they were seeing going on in larger communities.
"With the World Wide Web and the news agencies we're watching
daily on cable, we're watching the blight of America in areas that
are not affecting us. We're watching Chicago, Los Angeles and
Bateman went on to say that what is happening in those larger
areas instills fear in the local population and makes us hesitant to
Ray picked up on that and said, "We're taking our cues sometimes
from the wrong place," and Bateman said yes.
Gary Davis also spoke, representing himself, saying that he was
really concerned about the level of educational achievement in this
area. He said, "The actual baccalaureate achievement percentage in
America is 24 percent, here we're at 14 (percent)."
Davis concluded that those who are not educated will meet with
insurmountable obstacles if they try to go into business.
He expressed that as they deal with business issues such as
government, city issues, IRS and so on and so forth, even though
they may have the imagination needed to foster a new business, they
will not have the know-how to deal with these issues.
Ray agreed that education is an issue. Longworth had discussed
this issue, citing the city of Detroit, where manufacturing was the
key source of family incomes
The general consensus there was that education was not needed in
order to earn a good living.
However, as trends changed and manufacturing left the area, these
uneducated people were left with no means to support themselves.
Ray expanded, saying that part of the mindset of the Midwest is
exactly that. In manufacturing, and to a certain degree even in
agriculture, the belief has been that one does not have to be highly
educated to succeed. This is perhaps one of the mindsets that will
have to change before the Midwest can rise again.
Dr. Kristen Green-Morrow, a local physician as well as president
of the board of the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership,
expressed a concern over the local youth.
Some Logan County teenagers, she said, "come from homes where
they are just trying to survive."
She indicated that young girls are more or less learning through
their family environment to get pregnant and get support.
She went on to say that many of these young girls are capable of
achieving greater things but are being shown by example that there
is no need.
Frank Shepke of St. Clara's Manor voiced an opinion that in our
society we reward competitiveness and ignore collaboration.
He said, "Sometimes we have to be collaborative before we can
become competitive. We need to figure out what our strengths are as
a community. And organize and collaborate around those strengths
before we can become competitive regionally or even nationally."
Ray ended the "bad news" segment by saying that in global studies
it has been found that it takes only 2 percent of a total population
to start a revolution.
Mathematically 2 percent of the city of Lincoln's 14,000 people
would be 280 souls.
He concluded that those in the room were a decent start to
initiating a revolution in Logan County and turning around these
"bad news" issues.
[By NILA SMITH]