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LETTER: 'Think-Off' contestant impressed with area

In his book "The Art of the Commonplace", a series of agrarian essays, Wendell Berry makes a compelling case for the importance of doing the right thing individually and collectively when it comes to both protecting our natural resources and preserving the values and traditions that have been handed down from one generation to the next. So it was only appropriate for Jamie Robertson, executive director of the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, to mention the rich rural heritage that ultimately gave birth to the Great American Think-Off when he addressed the audience assembled for the debate the other evening in your fair city.

Like many small towns here in Kansas and elsewhere in the Midwest, New York Mills is battling to remain viable in the face of the current economic crisis, which threatens to farther prolong the general downward trend that began 70-plus years ago in the Farm Belt. But fortunately for you folks, New York Mills is no run-of-the-mill town as the presence of the Center there clearly indicates. Committed to cultivating the arts, the facility serves as a focal point for everything about rural America that is pure, noble and worthy of honor.

Hey, I tried in vain to convince some of you that it is never wrong to do the right thing, so I now plead with all of you to do the right thing and continue to support the work of the Center because much of your identity as a town is wrapped up in that old brick building and what goes on there.

Finally, thanks to those of you who greeted me at the reception, especially the Catholic couple who really appreciated the stand I took during the debate. You know who you are.

Rick Nichols

Leavenworth, Kan.

2009 Finalist