On Dec. 11, as part of the annual celebration of Statehood Day, I spoke at the Indiana State Museum to a group of fourth-grade students.
My brief remarks attempted to bridge the expanse of years between my generation and these young Hoosier children and also bridge the remarkable difference between their digital world, with its smartphones and limitless information capacity, and the pre-industrial world of the pioneers who carved a home in the woods in the new state of Indiana in 1816.
The early settlers who founded our state government 199 years ago faced many risks and dangers in the wilderness and had many reasons to be afraid. In that harsh environment, people could die of exposure, severe weather or drowning, die of epidemics or injury due to lack of modern medicine or succumb to malnutrition if crops failed and wild game was scarce.
In the absence of law and order, people isolated on the frontier had to defend themselves. Settler families along with their young children had to face their fears honestly and endure dangers and hardships; and often endurance was only possible through neighbors assisting each other.
Abraham Lincoln, at 7 years old, was among those who came to Indiana in the first year of its statehood, joining those already here.
There were many difficulties in those early years, and many mistakes made by the settlers in terms of their mistreatment of the original inhabitants who had long called this region home.
Nonetheless, that first generation of Hoosiers who drafted the original Indiana Constitution in Corydon in 1816 not only established a new state government out of a territory but also helped shape the later positive character of our people.
The Hoosier hospitality that has long welcomed newcomers is part of that character, a heritage handed down from the early generations. So is joining to build a common bond with our neighbors, to face fears together and stand firm against dangers, both known and unknown.
In today’s troubled times, we can look to what Lincoln would later term “the better angels of our nature” to rally those facing dangers. These are part of the Hoosier spirit that we need to once again call upon to face the fears of our own day.
Joining with one another, not being led by irrational fear but by our collective resolve to face our fears together.
Without ever mentioning terrorism, the Islamic State group, violent crime, natural disasters or the many other threats today to our safety and that of our children in my remarks to the fourth-graders at the museum, I could see in the faces of their parents and teachers the common bond we share today as Hoosiers with those settlers who helped establish Indiana as a state. We can face our fears better together than we can alone.
Greg Zoeller is the I
ndiana attorney general. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.