Last week, millions tuned in to watch the annual Kentucky Derby. Many flocked Churchill Downs adorned in extravagant hats and threw money around like it wasn’t an object while smoking the finest Cubanos and toasting with $100 cocktails. As I sat there and watched the whole thing unfold, all I could think was: The Kentucky Derby is the furthest thing from what Kentucky’s all about, and certainly no where close to defining what I want people to know about the culture of our state as a whole.
Sure, one could argue about tradition and that horses are one of our largest exports, but at the end of the day, a two minute race doesn’t even begin to sum up what makes Kentucky an amazing state for the other 525,558 minutes that a year has to hold. The values of our wonderful Commonwealth have nothing to do with currency nor fancy articles of clothing. This state values hard work, the simple things in life, and ultimately a sense of community that tends to get lost in other states around the country.
Sure, we don’t have an abundance of large cities comprised of smog-filled air and obnoxious traffic, but what we do have is a natural splendor that can’t be matched. With more navigable waterways than any other state in the union for canoeing and thousands of square miles of state and national parks for hiking, we have paradise in our back yards. One of the most beautiful sights my eyes have ever seen is that from the pinnacle of Pilot’s Knob; looking down upon the rolling hills for miles in every direction. If there’s one thing I recommend anyone in Kentucky to do, it’s to make that short hike to the top and behold that same view.
Not only are we a state of natural splendor, but also of dedication to the community. Our accents are noticeable, but our slang is inclusive. “Y’all” is a part of our every day vocabulary, and we use it when we invite our neighbors to ask us for assistance when they need it. A final frontier for Southern Hospitality before crossing the Ohio, we still know what real sweet tea is supposed to taste like, and bonfires are a part of our regular schedule in the fall and spring. There’s nothing better than our small town feel. Regardless of whether you’re in Louisville or Pikesville, you can run into an old friend that you haven’t seen in years and it will feel like you haven’t missed a beat.
At the end of the day, though, I love Kentucky because it’s a place that I’m proud to call home. I’m driven every day to keep that sense of community that I’ve grown up with for generations to come, and to protect our beautiful parks from becoming a tourist trap. All of the aforementioned aspects have driven me to run for office, and I think everyone should experience our state for all that it is. The bluegrass, the hospitality, the natural beauty. Kentucky. Home.