(Indianapolis Star, December 14, 2016)
We stand on the brink of a new century for Indiana. This past year as we have celebrated the state’s bicennential we have remembered stories that have made us proud and others that were a source of shame. Examining the truth about our past without cliché or nostalgia affords us the wisdom to move forward into the next century.
We remember; not to live in the past but with it. Memories teach us. They are mirrors into our own souls, windows into the hearts of others and gateways through which to ignite the future.
The prophet taught, “Your old shall dream dreams and your youth shall see visions.” We have dreamed of all that has made us Indiana. Now it is time to envision the future.
Let me share with you what I have learned from the visions of the young Hoosiers whom I have come to know:
They envision more green spaces, clean air and waterways, safe places to explore.
They want quality education and economic opportunity, equality for men and women, an environment free from fear of violence.
They want an end to bullying, intimidation, words and acts of hate.
They value science, not just so they can have the next new gadget, but so that decisions about their future are based on reasoned inquiry and accumulated knowledge.
Our young people want Hoosier hospitality to extend to everyone regardless of race, gender identity, ethnicity or religion, and to wrap its arms around diversity, while uniting us in the bonds of responsible citizenship.
Our youth imagine a state known for its ideas and its talents, for its science and technology, its music, art, literature and theater. They dream of a place with a soul.
To ignite the future requires us to take risks and admit mistakes, to listen and embrace civility, to be open to new ideas in a state where all Hoosiers have a future, where everyone is welcome, everyone is in.
As we enter our third century, let us learn from the past, affirm the present and shape the future.
Let the waters of the Wabash wash away willful antagonisms.
Let the sands of the Indiana Dunes bury old grudges.
Let the springs of West Baden invigorate and renew us.
Let the bridges of Madison County carry us safely over the divides-rural and urban, rich and poor, young and old, black and white, immigrant and native born.
Let the example of men and women whose words and deeds have made us proud, continue to remind us of the power of human kindness, of creativity, of philanthropy and entrepreneurship to change the world;
Let Indiana limestone soften our resistance to change and build monuments to human dignity;
Let sugar cream pie teach us the sweet art of mixing and the mingling of people.
As we enter the next Hoosier century, let us recall the words of our poet, James Whitcomb Riley, “the future will come with the honest hand of labor, the honest heart of loveliness, the honest soul of love.”
With these hopes and commitments, let us go forth and ignite the future.
Sasso is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck and director of the Religion, Spirituality and the Arts Initiative at Butler University.