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Amelia Earhart
GREAT BEND, Kan. - Hilary Swank doesn't have two "Best Actress" Oscars sitting on her mantle for nothing. And her performance in Amelia (2009) brings such flesh-and-blood realism to the life of Amelia Earhart that I left the theater feeling like I knew Earhart - almost like she was a girl I went to college with or something. Swank is incandescent as Earhart.

Of all Kansas heroes, two stand apart: General Eisenhower and Amelia Earhart. Ike succeeded wildly in a man's world. And so did Atchison native Amelia Earhart. Early in the film the child Earhart is shown running through a Kansas wheat field, marveling at an airplane, and vowing that she will someday fly.

The film is about many things: dreams, feminism, marriage, airplanes, but it is mostly about an incredibly gutsy Kansan who succeeded on a scale difficult to imagine. At the age of 34 she became the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo.

Obama's Prize

DODGE CITY, Kan. - Yesterday I attended a luncheon of a local civic group. At our table were seated six women, four of whom were certified, blue-blood Republicans and the other two were another wise Democrat and me.

An R asked who had heard the shocking news that Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, all of us had. Four of the group were properly stunned and sure that this must have been some kind of political trickery. One asked if any of us knew how winners were selected and by whom. I suggested that perhaps the selection happened because of all his potential for what he might do for the world with our new outlook.

They remembered suddenly that I was - Oh, Horrors! A Democrat! So, now they reminded each other, that this Democrat had been a "good" Democrat and that they had all voted for me when I was in the Kansas House. Thank goodness, I wasn't like all those OTHER Democrats. I responded that I was very proud of being a member of the Democratic Party, the Party of the People. So the subject was changed.

Signs Of Democratic Life In Kansas

HAYS, Kan. - Throughout my career teaching college students I have encountered a recurring sentiment, often from the most earnest undergraduates. "I wish I could just study, go to class, and write what I really think, without everything being so competitive." The implication is that the way achievement is recognized in higher education is undermining the learning experience for the student.

Journalists often voice a similar regret - or excuse, depending upon your point of view - about how they would much rather be finding and reporting different kinds of stories, but the nature of the business requires them to operate according to standards the journalists themselves claim to resent. Perhaps the commercial realities of circulation, ratings, and advertising revenue are undermining journalistic freedom to pursue stories from a different perspective, shaped by a larger purpose. I don't know because I have never had to make a living within those realities.

WASHINGTON - President Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize this morning for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, issued this statement, "The Nobel Committee's decision to award this year's Peace Prize to President Obama is an affirmation of the fact that the United States has returned to its longstanding role as a world leader. The President has made a conscious decision from the beginning of his presidency to reinvigorate diplomacy, by talking to our friends and our rivals. Those efforts to bring world leaders together are helping the people of the world to face monumental challenges like nuclear arms proliferation, conflict resolution and climate change. With this prize comes a sense of enormous pride, but also an enormous sense of humility about the work that remains if we are to resolve the global problems facing humanity."

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, rebuked the respected institution for awarding the prize to the president.

TOPEKA, Kan. - The 2nd U.S. Congressional District has been anything but stable. In 2006, Nancy Boyda (D) defeated incumbent Rep. Jim Ryun (R). After just two years in Washington, Lynn Jenkins (R) defeated Boyda in 2008.

The district has been in the news in recent months. Jenkins has seemed to take a number of missteps (here, here and here). The Kansas Democratic Party is even tracking Jenkins at a special site, JenkinsFail.com.

Now, we hear that Jenkins has a challenger in the 2010 election. State Sen. Laura Kelly (D) has announced that she wants to reclaim that congressional seat for the Democratic Party.

Raj Goyle's Photographic Memory

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The first time I met Raj Goyle we were both Democratic hopefuls for the Kansas House of Representatives, attending a strategy meeting in Topeka in 2006. Both of us were running in tough Republican Districts, me in the 112th, him in the 87th against longtime Republican incumbent Bonnie Huy.

"Marty Keenan," I said, extending my hand in friendship. "Raj Goyle," he said. "I met your in-laws recently," he said, as my jaw dropped. "Harry and Carol Castelli." Raj had met my very Republican in-laws going door-to-door, and it was obvious he talked to them at length.

I figured this was just a lucky coincidence. I decided to throw him a bone and tell him about another of his potential constituents I knew: "Do you remember John Holt, the broadcaster? His parents live in your district..."

Why Brownback Is Not a Shoo-in

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The key question about Sam Brownback's Republican candidacy for Governor is not "Why aren't any Democrats running?," but "Why aren't more Democrats running?" During my lifetime, Kansas has had more years of Democratic governors than Republican governors.

The prevalence of Democratic governors in Kansas is an oddity, but easily explainable:
Kansans love divided government. They don't trust one political party to control the Governor's mansion, and both legislative bodies at the same time.

But what about Bill Graves? Yes, this moderate, pro-education Republican served for 8 years with a Republican house and a Republican senate. But Sam Brownback is a different kettle of fish.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Last week, SurveyUSA released the results of their monthly approval rating poll in Kansas showing a staggering six percent drop in approval for Senator Sam Brownback. Brownback, who is running for Governor of Kansas, now finds himself under the so-called "safe" 50% threshold for election.

Brownback's 48% approval is nearing his all time low achieved when he left Kansas to pursue his ambition of becoming President. Worst yet for him, he's bleeding moderates. One in ten abandoned Brownback in September. Many have said this race is already over, but this is clear evidence it is only the beginning.

Kansas Democrats have an incredible opportunity to both retain the Governor's office and provide a clear, stable alternative to Senator Brownback's brand of extremism.

Seeing in Full-Blown Color

WICHITA, Kan. - "You say the word hell, and that's where all of you are going," shouted a lone fundamentalist preacher in front of the Rhatigan Student Center at Wichita State University last Tuesday, September 29.

In this same spot, this man and his associates have preached for the past week and a half to students on campus that, he says, "worship the Shockers."

Most students that I have talked to aren't particularly excited about their mascot like students at different universities are. In fact, they may be as big of fans of the wheat this man devours in his communion bread every week.

As I observed this situation, I decided it was best to ask him about sports. Did he ever play football, or any other sports? "Well," he said, "I played some ball in my day, but now that I am working for the Lord, I have not focused on sports as much." The key, I thought, was to get him talking about something completely unrelated to his original plan and purpose.

WSU's That Gay Group! took the initiative to stand close to this man and his friends with signs and a rainbow flag. When the rainbow flag touched the man, he said, "Get this off of me!"

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. - Prairie Village resident Charles Schollenberger has announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a possible U.S. Senate run. The committee plans to meet through the end of 2009 to determine if sufficient support exists for a candidacy.

Schollenberger believes "Kansans deserve better representation. Republicans have tied up [those] seats for over 70 years." From a "fair play standpoint, the other party ought to have a chance."

Schollenberger hails from Hudson, Ohio has been a resident of metropolitan Kansas City for 27 years. He grew up in northeast Ohio where he was a strong advocate for passage of the 26th amendment in 1971, which lowered the legal voting age to 18.

The Founder of MY Humanism

LAWRENCE, Kan. - I have been amazingly lucky in my life to have been surrounded by extremely strong role models since a young age. While many of them have been flawed, occasionally astoundingly so, each and every one of the people that I have considered a role model in my life has changed my life in ways that I don't even have the ability to express intelligently. However, since when has not being able to express something intelligently ever stopped me from trying?

One of the more remarkable things about my role models throughout my life, considering that I am a product of small-town Western Kansas, is that, even as a very young man, the majority of my role models have been women. While this doesn't shock me from the position I find myself in now, at 30 years of age, it is something that is unusual, due to the societal roles that men and women are expected to fulfill in conservative atmospheres, like Western Kansas. While I do have many males that have served as important role models in my life, I will leave discussion of them for another day. Today, let me tell you about one amazing women I've known.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Statistically, speaking the 112th District House of Representatives seat is the third safest Republican seat in the entire Kansas House of Representatives. In fact, this western Barton County seat hasn't been filled by a Democrat in over 60 years.

So why did I run 3 times as a Democrat for this seat in 2004, 2006 and 2008? I guess I'm a dreamer at heart, a Don Quixote who wants to believe that good things happen to good people who keep trying. Averaging 47.6% of the vote is nothing to be embarrassed about, but it still makes you wonder why politics isn't more fair.

But at a recent Royals game, I saw two things that started to make things a little more clear. One said: "Play for the name on the front of your jersey, not the name on the back." How true. Each time I ran for state tepresentative, I was a member of a team, the name on the front of my jersey "Democrat" is what really counts. The name on the back of the jersey "Marty Keenan" is secondary. And all three times I finished over twenty five points ahead of the meager 21% Democratic registration in my district. So I represented the team well.

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