Weekly Column

Feb 24 2020

Heartland Values

**Click here to download audio of this week’s column**

I recently came across an idea that I think describes the best of Nebraskans – our proactiveness. As the late author Stephen Covey observed, “It means more than merely taking an initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions… a product of our own conscious choice, based on values… They carry their own weather with them.”

Over the last few months, we have seen some heartwarming Nebraska stories to support this.

Earlier this year, a student at Gibbon Elementary School tragically lost her home in a fire. The school reported that there was nothing left for the family to salvage. In less than a day, her fellow 5th grade students worked together to arrange clothes, socks, pillows, blankets, toiletries, stuffed animals, and much more for the affected student and her family. The staff at Gibbon Elementary even chipped in funds to replace her clarinet. 

On the student’s birthday, she and her family were invited to the school, where her friends and the staff surprised them with these gifts. 

In a Facebook post, the school wrote: “These acts of kindness and caring came from the hearts of our youth! It wasn't an assignment or a demand from adults…Together we smiled, and we cried. One of the girls told her teacher that we didn't do this just to show kindness, we did this because we are family.” 

In January, another Nebraska story made national headlines and received nearly 2 million views on Twitter from across the country. 

Trey Payne, a teacher at Logan Fontanelle Middle School in Bellevue, had a pair of basketball shoes stolen from him. His students were upset and wanted to help. Shortly after the news, Mr. Payne’s students pulled enough of their own money together to buy him a brand new pair of basketball shoes. Students captured this special moment on video as their teacher was moved to tears after opening their thoughtful gift. The video ends with Mr. Payne’s students swarming in to give him a group hug. 

"It's more than a pair of shoes,” Mr. Payne told the school, “it's about doing things to build everyone up around you. I try to show my kids this, and I think the lesson has sunk in for many, in turn, reaffirming my purpose and my ideals."

I share these two stories because they display the kind hearts and values of Nebraska’s next generation. If there was ever a question if our principles and character will carry on, these stories answer with a resounding “yes.” I could not be prouder of these students who joined together to help their friends at a time when they needed them most.

To borrow Mr. Covey’s phrase: we Nebraskans carry our weather with us. The circumstances do not define us, we demonstrate who we are by how we respond.

Through disaster and heartbreak, I hear these stories of our Heartland values over and over again. And every single time I am filled with pride for our state and the great honor I have in representing you in the United States Senate. Homegrown stories like these are just another reminder that our people, and the shared values we hold dear, are always worth fighting for and always worth the focus and investment.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.