I’ve lived in Nebraska my whole life, and I was under the impression that I had my state figured out. I assumed that I knew the people, places and things around here pretty well. Nothing in this fly-over state could surprise me anymore. 

Thankfully, I was totally wrong.

I’ve never been prouder and more excited to be a Nebraskan in my life. I’ve learned just who the people of Nebraska are and what makes us different.

Last year, The University of Nebraska rolled out a new slogan: “In Our Grit, Our Glory.” At the time, I didn’t think a whole lot of it, but working on this project has brought it back to my mind time and time again. Nebraskans have some serious grit, and throughout our history, it’s been our defining factor.

nebraska 1024x681 - From the Notebook: Nick McConnell

Nebraska was the first place that people settled under the Homestead Act. Those folks dug their homes out of the ground and made their roofs out of sod. They stayed in the elements through blizzards and blazing heat and clawed out a living from the land.

Famous Nebraskan politician William Jennings Bryan ran three times for the U.S. Presidency and lost all three. It’s always been tough to get Nebraskans to quit. 

Despite the tendency of coastal big-wigs to ignore us, Nebraskans have changed the world in ways big and small over the years. Folks like Johnny Carson, Warren Buffett, Marlon Brando, Malcom X and Fred Astaire took their Nebraskan roots and became national household names. It takes grit to make your name in the world. 

And if the Cornhusker Football team’s five National Championships don’t make every Nebraskan proud, I don’t know what can. 

It’s really no wonder that every Nebraskan we’ve encountered so far has met the terrible tragedy of these floods with nothing but the utmost grace and class imaginable. People who have lost everything have looked us in the eye, told their stories, and then said, “You know, lots of folks have it worse.” Communities have come together to help each other out in the most incredible ways, and it’s been a blessing for us to see. 

Helping others through tough times is something that feels very Nebraskan to me. We’ve heard so many moving stories of people sacrificing for the benefit of those around them. 

We’ve seen some truly devastating things, and folks have told us they’ve gotten discouraged along the way, but each person we’ve come in contact with has carried incredible hope that things can get better and seeing the incredible progress that has already been made has been remarkable.

So if the coasts want to keep writing us off, they can go ahead. In fact, I dare them to.

They won’t stop us. 

Nebraskans are practically built to change the world. Hard work, grit and boundless hope are instilled in all of us, and we know how to make the difference that matters whether it’s big or small.


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