Reminders for politicians passing through Indiana


If the rain holds off this week, my wife and I will probably take a walk down our county road.

About that same time, 6 o’clock, millions of Hoosiers will finish their day’s work at a factory, store, shop, school, college, prison, business, farm or construction site and head home. Thousands of others will start their night shifts. We’ll cook dinners, mow lawns, watch kids’ ball games, view TV shows, do the laundry, try to understand a child’s homework, eat, love, fuss, talk, laugh, pray and sleep.

The candidates for president are gone.

After all, 11 more states wait to vote before the Republican and Democratic national conventions in July and the general election on Nov. 8.

Indiana is left to us again. At least until fall, when the party nominees might — might — return, briefly.

The gimmicks to win our applause — whether it’s Ted Cruz tape-measuring the distance from the court to the basketball ring or former reality TV star Donald Trump bringing Bob Knight back for a hardly surprising endorsement — change nothing about life here.

Once the rally signs, well- practiced one-liners, security forces and attack ads disappear, we’ll still be doing what Hoosiers do, and have done, for a long time.

The hard truth is, these candidates will never be the powerful, problem-demolishing super heroes they describe. Presidents can only do so much, and those who’ve actually served in that office — from Carter to the elder Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and President Obama — would bluntly affirm that reality. We also elect Hoosiers to represent us in Congress, the governor’s office, superintendent of public instruction, Statehouse offices, the General Assembly, county and city government, township trustees and school boards.

The mayor and city council suddenly seem just as important as the person in the White House when local taxes or trash fees come up.

So, as the campaign jets leave Indiana with nothing tangible but vapor trails in the sky, here’s a few things the candidates should remember about the people here …

Hoosiers are indeed hard-working, as they love to remind us, but often underemployed and underpaid. The jobless rate is low, but thousands of folks work two jobs just to break even. The cost of living is lower here, generally, but incomes fall below most other states.

The colleges and universities in Indiana attract students and faculty from around the country and across the world. We’re home to amazing places of learning, including five right here in Terre Haute. Yet, too many of the talented young minds trained in those colleges leave the state to start their careers in places where opportunities and paychecks are larger.

Historic cities dot the state map, from those along the Wabash and Ohio rivers to the locales near Lake Michigan and points in between. But those towns need investment in their roads, bridges, sidewalks, wastewater systems and, especially, inside their neighborhoods and downtown districts.

And, yes, we love the Indy 500, mushroom hunting and, of course, basketball.

But while coach Knight’s legacy occupies a significant spot in our hoops history, that heritage encompasses many, many other great and memorable players, coaches, teams and schools, from Oscar Robertson to Larry Bird, Bobby Plump, Crispus Attucks, Muncie Central, Gerstmeyer, the ‘78-79 Sycamores, Brad Stevens’ Butler Bulldogs, Clyde Lovellette, Terry Dischinger, Roger Brown, Mel Daniels, Slick Leonard, Reggie Miller, the Pacers, and a guy named John Wooden.

Coach Wooden’s thoughtful style clashes sharply with 2016 presidential politics, but one particular quotation of his should serve as Indiana’s reminder to the candidates who’ve come to impress us.

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

Mark Bennett is a writer for the (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. Send comments to [email protected].

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