Archive for Thursday, September 8, 2005

Kansans continue legacy of assistance

September 8, 2005

What a difference a week makes.

Last week I helped celebrate the Kansas National Guard's 150th birthday in the Statehouse. What started as a celebration turned into a demonstration of why Kansans and members of the Guard never fail to inspire me. Just two days after a deployment ceremony for 546 Kansas National Guard members who will soon be on their way to Iraq, our Kansas troops stood ready to go to Louisiana and Mississippi to help residents of those flood-ravaged states begin to rebuild their lives.

And as the nightmare stories of devastation have overwhelmed our emotions, Kansans of all walks of life, in every part of the state, have come forward to offer assistance to those in need - need so desperate that even now we can scarcely comprehend it. Kansas has a long history of neighbors helping neighbors in times of trouble, and our unfolding responses to Hurricane Katrina and its flooding continue to demonstrate the basic fact that we will, above all, help our neighbors.

That goes for citizens across the United States, who have offered yet another reminder that, in America, we take care of our own.

With 150 Kansans National Guard troops now in the disaster area, and more ready to go if called upon, once again I've been privileged to witness Kansans' incredible willingness to serve those in need.

The occasional harshness of prairie life has always encouraged Kansans to rely on one another. And this tradition carries on today, whether in times of crisis or in the everyday business of bringing people of a large, diverse state together to provide for the best possible schools and to offer health care to all our citizens. In times of emergencies, this history of coming together makes us understand how we must help our neighbors, whether they are down the street, or halfway across the country.

Even as our men and women in uniform head south, the immensity of this tragedy has given us all roles to play here at home - both in terms of helping the hurricane victims and in continuing to help those in need right here in Kansas. We can do that by making contributions of money and necessities, giving blood and assisting communities in sheltering evacuees.

In the weeks to come, Kansas will play host to about 4,500 temporarily displaced individuals from the storm area. I know that Kansans will open their homes and their hearts to the people, with all the hospitality and generosity that makes Kansas such a special place.

Although we in Kansas were spared the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding, the indirect results of this storm - such as the rising gasoline prices that pinch the budgets of families, farmers, and school districts - remind us of our connections across the entire country. At the same time, the sacrifices of Kansans make the outpouring of our state's generosity all the more gratifying.

Like the Good Samaritan who refused to pass by when a stranger lay battered and helpless at the side of the road, Kansans, and all Americans, must continue to come together and provide aid and comfort to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the weeks and months ahead. I have every confidence Kansans will keep on offering their time, talents, and treasure to overcome the devastation that has so deeply affected the nation's soul.

- Kathleen Sebelius is governor of Kansas.

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