We’re Not Fancy, We’re Buckeyes: A Love Letter to Ohio

Here in Ohio, on the easternmost verge of the Midwest, we aren’t known for being flashy. Just take a look at our governor and you’ll know that immediately. Governor Mike DeWine, a bespectacled, calm, public servant, is winning at leadership through this pandemic; he is not doing so through bluster and flash, but rather through measured tone, solid decision-making, and humility. Governor DeWine’s two sidekicks in his daily press conferences are Lt Governor Jon Husted and Director of the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Amy Acton.

Dr. Amy Acton gives an update on the Coronavirus situation. She is flanked by Lt. Gov Jon Husted and Governor Mike DeWine.

No matter your politics, (and please, let’s just leave politics out of this), all are sincere examples of our Buckeye can-do attitude. In fact, all three are the perfect representatives for my state in this time of uncertainty. As they’ve received national and international attention for their extraordinary leadership, I started thinking about why people seem so surprised. The truth is, folks just don’t know that much about Ohio, but think they know all they need to. We are in flyover country, after all. What could we possibly have to offer? To educate a bit about my home, here is a love letter to Ohio, inspired by Mike, Jon, and Amy, three solid Buckeyes.

Read international acclaim for DeWine here: DeWine in International News


Usually we’re known for three things: being important in election years, our rabid Ohio State University fans, and being boring. Well, how’s boring treating you now?

Boring is starting to look pretty darn good. Boring means humble, reserved, knowing when to ask for the advice of professionals with expertise. Boring means not being Chicken Little, not belittling others to make yourself look “better”, and it most definitely means having the guts to make tough decisions. It means the ability to empathize with people who are sacrificing. God bless the Governor, Lt Jon, Dr. Amy, and Fran DeWine and her homemade masks. They are authentic. They take the “servant” part of public servant to heart.

Clockwise from top left: Neil Armstrong, Stephen Speilberg, Paul Newman, John Legend, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Apparently, we do have our share of kooks and criminals, as evidenced by the recent harassment of Dr. Amy at her home, BUT the majority of Ohioans are just normal human beings who work hard, care for their families, and believe that tomorrow can be better than today.

We have our share of famous Buckeyes in entertainment and athletics–LeBron James, Rob Lowe, Stephen Spielberg, Jack Nicklaus, Cy Young, Doris Day, Gloria Steinem, Tecumseh, 7 presidents, and so many more. Our greatest pride, however, is that we seem to be especially adept at producing great thinkers.

Our inventors and explorers are second to none: Edison, the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and a whole bunch of people you’ve never heard of, but who have done amazing things. What would our lives be without the automobile, planes, vacuum cleaners, light bulbs, cash registers, MRIs, bar codes, traffic lights, fire departments, hotdogs, or chewing gum? And I’m only scratching the surface! Recently, the crown jewel of our invention and research heritage, Battelle Institute, figured out how to sterilize 80,000 N-95 masks a day so that they could be reused. We needed that in the throes of this pandemic. Abbott Laboratories in Columbus have developed a COVID-19 antibody test which identifies if someone has had the virus and has subsequently developed antibodies. They shipped out 4 million tests in April and can run 100-200 tests on their laboratory equipment per hour. Inventing, thinking, and creating are alive and well in the Buckeye State.

Read about Abbott Labs COVID-19 tests here

Read more about Battelle Institute

Read more about Ohio inventions

Even more Ohio inventions


Ohio doesn’t have an ocean or mountaintops. We are bordered by a Great Lake and a great river. In between there are rolling hills, plains, a whole lot of farmland, and some cooler-than-you-would-think cities. It will surprise some that our capital, Columbus, is solidly in the top 20 largest cities in the US. This year it is #16–ranking above Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Miami to name a few. It would seem that its chief flaw is having a common name. It is certainly large enough and influential enough to have lost its last name (Ohio) a while ago, but since there are 22 OTHER cities named the same in the US, it is sometimes still impossible to say one is from Columbus without adding “Ohio.” Believe me, I’ve tried.

For the last 25 years of my 32 year teaching career, I taught in a district that attracted well-heeled families when they were transferred to Columbus. Invariably, if they moved from someplace more “exciting”, they bemoaned how “boring” Columbus was. I became an unofficial cheerleader for our great state in the hopes of persuading them to see the same beauty I did.


The thing is, I don’t have to see Pike’s Peak, the Statue of Liberty, or the Grand Canyon to see beauty. I have seen all those landmarks as well as many others, but they don’t have a monopoly on beauty. They are awe-inspiring, to be sure, but not all beauty has to take your breath away. Sometimes beauty is found in a quiet, unassuming cornfield or river. There is nothing more beautiful than a tranquil place to sip a cup of tea, listen to the birds, and watch the sun rise. Ohio is like that.

We don’t have a lot of dramatic places, but we do have a few noteworthy destinations and claims to fame. There are two wonderful amusement parks, including the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point. The Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland; the Pro Football Hall of Fame is in Canton. We have many professional sports teams: the Browns, the Bengals, the Blue Jackets, the Cavaliers, the Crew, the Indians, the Reds. We have a lot of universities and wonderful small colleges–137 to be exact, including The Ohio State University Buckeyes, perennially one of the top three largest universities in the US.

Our state park system includes 75 lovely locations; we have one national park–Cuyahoga Valley NP. These parks range from the Appalachian Foothills to the plains left behind when the glaciers receded eons ago. The message here is that the Ohio landscape is varied; what she lacks in dramatic beauty, she makes up for in infinite simplicity. You can see everything in Ohio from deep gorges and sandstone formations to open-skied plains reaching miles into the distance.

Not only do we offer the pastoral, but also the urban. The restaurant and entertainment scene in our big cities—Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Dayton– is comparable to anyplace.

A first time visitor to the big three would most likely be very surprised at how sophisticated they really are. I don’t say this lightly–I have visited many, many metropolitan meccas, (NYC and Madrid in the last 6 months alone) and what our Ohio cities have to offer is comparable in many ways. That, and they’re much easier to live in.

There’s No Place Like Home

All the things that make Ohio so wonderful aren’t necessarily the things that one thinks of first when naming things that are wonderful. Ohio has common sense. We have humility. We care about our fellow man. We do what needs to be done. We are responsible. We are friendly. Our open Midwestern faces readily smile and lend a helping hand. We do what is asked of us. We work hard. Ohio is home.



Will the Pandemic Change Us? Oh, How I Hope So!

There has been much written already about how this pandemic has and will continue to change us. As an eternal optimist, I am hopeful that we will be changed for the better, but know that often times our memories are woefully short. For those who are sick (or WILL become sick) and for those trying to heal them, this is a terrible, terrible time. For those who are “just” staying home, however, the time can be used for good.

Who Are We Without Our Busy-ness?

While difficult, many families can benefit from time together, more time outside taking walks, and just generally having their calendars cleared of “busy-ness.” 

The number of families out taking a walk together is unprecedented–even teenagers are along!

Knowing how to treasure time together is wonderful. Maybe now is the time to work on things we’ve neglected because of that unhealthy obsession with “busy-ness”—fitness, hobbies, reading, home improvements, and the like. Our propensity in the U.S. to over-schedule ourselves has been dashed with a metaphorical bucket of cold water. May we think twice before going back to the same level of mindless activity.


Here are a few more changes to our national psyche that I hope we keep as we eventually move past this crisis.

Thankfulness and Appreciation for the Work of Others

It goes without saying that we must have appreciation for those who put themselves in harm’s way for the greater good. Our healthcare workers, from those who work to keep hospitals safe and disinfected, to those who are doctors and nurses, are those whom we must profoundly thank in these times of crisis. Thank goodness that they have the calling to do what they do–anytime, for anyone. We are grateful.

I also see folks expressing thankfulness online to their child’s teachers. Those teachers are tasked with the very difficult job of continuing to engage young minds despite challenging circumstances. Of course there are the parents who have always been supportive of their child’s teachers, but the real change that I hope happens is for those who previously thought that teaching was for those who “can’t”. You remember that old trope? “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Well, this virus has hopefully shown a whole lot of doers that they can’t teach; teaching is an art, not a task for the uninspired. It, too, is a calling, not a job.

We must realize just how important ALL THE WORKERS are. There is no work that isn’t noble and necessary—whether it’s a need or something that makes life more enjoyable. In this pandemic atmosphere, everyday heroes are our checkout clerks at the grocery store, the janitors and custodians cleaning our schools and buildings for the eventual return of the workforce, and the delivery and warehouse persons who are somehow keeping the supply chain alive and well.

Thank goodness for all the workers who are keeping us supplied with essentials during this time of crisis.

There is so much honor in these jobs and more—the list is infinite. And how about the things we are missing? Our hairdressers, a favorite food server or bartender, our friends in the arts? All of humanity in its infinite variety makes this big blue marble tick and hum along. I hope I never hear again that a parent has unrealistic hopes for their child to go to a “good” college and get a “good” job. ALL jobs are good and necessary. There is HONOR in all work. There is prestige in work and there is importance. One need not have prestige to be important; misplaced prestige is bad for society. We would do well to remember this.

New Businesses and Ways to “Be”

Proving once again that American ingenuity is not dead, this pandemic has brought a new wave of jobs and unique approaches for connection and socialization. When we found out that we’d need to keep our kids learning at home, there was an onslaught on social media of interesting things to do—virtual tours of museums, doodling with Mo Willems, free exercise classes with the Fenix System, and on and on. Out of necessity, new jobs have sprung up: the delivery of prescriptions to homes, bread (and donuts!) delivery from our favorite bakery, Schneider’s in Westerville, virtual entertainment and socialization for nursing home residents, to name a few. We have also seen the glaring need for manufacturing to return to the United States. A global economy is good, but not at the expense of not being able to produce our own products both to be prepared and when under duress. Hopefully, a renewed interest in manufacturing and the industrial sector will find fertile ground in our communities.

Besides the business aspect, neighbors are reaching out to help one another in meaningful ways. My daughter is recently returned to Ohio from New York City. Before she left the city, she saw a kind lady posting flyers saying she was willing to run errands for the older people in their apt building.  The woman was organizing an army of volunteers to help in any way necessary. Here in Westerville, we have our own armies in place already: Rick Bannister organized our Neighborhood Bridges brigade in January of 2017

Neighborhood bridges seeks to connect community needs with community members who can meet those needs. It is an amazing program!

and has since spread the model to 25 other communities around the United States. We have the Westerville Area Resource Ministry which provides food and support to area residents. The challenge to which we must rise is to continue to do MORE than what we already had in place and to do it on an absolutely personal level.

Be a good neighbor, be a good daughter or son, be a good human being. 


Qualified Leadership in Times of Trouble

Lastly, we here in Ohio are being led through this critical time by two folks you might have heard of: Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton. No matter your political affiliation, you have to admit that Governor DeWine has shown tremendous leadership. Early on, I read that Dr. Acton was the last person in the cabinet for DeWine to hire. He felt he had to search and search to get just the right person. Further, in previous administrations, the Director of Health wasn’t even a health professional. DeWine wanted to change that and have a bonafide physician in charge of health matters for our state.

Dr. Amy Acton and Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio issue the stay at home order on Monday, March 23, 2020.

It seems ludicrous that in 2020, actually having someone be QUALIFIED to lead in a position is revolutionary. Why WOULDN’T expertise in an area be an absolute requirement in order to hold an office in that area? The last way that I would like for us to change permanently would be for it to be a requirement for anyone holding a cabinet/leadership office in government, have to have EXPERIENCE, EXPERTISE, and CREDENTIALS for that position. In other words, the U.S. Secretary of Education would need to have experience working in public education before being able to lead the entire system. I’m sure there are other examples—that one just springs to mind for some reason.

We Must Keep our Heads Up

In closing, we will be okay. In some ways, the pandemic is like a market correction, but for social issues. We will get through this. On the other side, though? Can we make it look, feel, and be better than it was before? THAT is my challenge to you, me and everyone else.