My icon is from "Tragic Prelude," the classic mural by John Steuart Curry, which is on display in the statehouse in Topeka.
The artwork also served as the first album cover for the rock group "Kansas," a classic rock superband from the 1970s and '80s famous for "Dust in the Wind" and "Carry On Wayward Son."
I am a huge Kansas (the rock group) fan, and I had the opportunity to meet the group in the late 1980s. Most of them are from the Topeka and Lawrence area.
The main figure in "Tragic Prelude" is John Brown, the militant abolitionist who was hung for his raid on Harper's Ferry. The mural also contains images from the violent "Bleeding Kansas" era, which led up to the Civil War.
Many people think of Kansas as a boring state because of its geography. But it has a rich political history, having given us Dwight Eisenhower and two presidential nominees, Alf Landon and Bob Dole.
Kansas was also the birthplace of the populist political movement. We used to be known as a fiercely free-thinking people.
Over the years, Kansas has become one of the reddest of the red states. Now we basically have three parties -- moderate Republicans, conservative Republicans and Democrats. Each controls about a third of the vote, which makes things interesting.
We have a Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius, mainly because the conservative Republicans put forward an unelectable candidate in 2002.
I have been involved in politics off and on over the past 25 years, including one stretch where politics was my profession.
I enjoy watching politics, though now I am only an observer. I was involved in a heartbreaking election defeat, and I no longer have thick enough skin to be so wrapped up in the profession. But I admire those who do, in all political parties.
VERY PERSONAL INFORMATION:
I am one of the 54 million Americans who suffer from a treatable mental disorder.
I have social anxiety disorder, a surprisingly common affliction that greatly inhibits a person's ability to confidently function in everyday social situations.
In my case, I am far more comfortable in standing up and speaking before a crowd of several hundred people than I am in chatting one-on-one with a stranger in an elevator. This condition has greatly impacted my life, but I have benefited from medication and counseling.
I urge anyone who has this condition, or any mental disorder, to seek help. There is an unfortunate stigma to mental illness that causes many people to suffer when they shouldn't.
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