MIAGD: make it a great day
If you grew up in Elwood Indiana, you were more than familiar with tomatoes, blown glass, and the name, Wendell L. Willkie.
Wendell L. Willkie was born and raised in Elwood, and ran against incumbant, running for an historic third term Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. August 17th, 1940, 77 years ago, today, marks Candidate Willkie’s return to Elwood to declare his candidacy.
Until 1972, there was Wendell L. Willkie High School, a fierce basketball and marching band competitor throughout Indiana.
On North Anderson Street, there is a small park with a stone monument to WLW.
In the city’s Calloway Park a plaque reminds us of the monumental historic moment in time when Wendell Willkie claimed the GOP’s nomination.
The “triumphal arch” under which a young Willkie entered school is preserved at the entrance of the high/middle school’s auditorium.
For me, Willkie Day, a long-established commemorative title for the event, has always been a special day, not only for the historic moment that cast my hometown into the national spotlight, but for the motivation it offers the citizens of Elwood.
We oft believe that success stories can only come from prestigious families, or larger cities. Willkie Day is a cemented fact that a small town’s boy or girl can grow up, step to the town’s threshold, and realize their dreams. The only thing holding them back is their own fear of taking that step across the threshold.
I was bred in the stories of the events preceding, and during the celebration, and through my work at The Elwood Public Library, received an extensive Willkie Day education, and experience. I also had the advantage of knowing many who either knew Wendell Willkie, or shared their memorable, exciting experiences of Willkie Day.
For me, Wendell L. Willkie ranks high with my other heroes: Joshua Logan, Walt Disney, Oscar Hammerstein II, Abraham Lincon, John Adams, and Harry Truman. These personal heroes were not about celebrity, or financial wealth. These personal heroes went beyond the odds, either in their personal or professional lives, or both, and became great servants in many areas.
I am proud to have been born, and raised in the same town that raised Wendell L. Willkie, and so many other wonderful folks who’ve made a direct, or indirect impact on my life.
Yes, Wendell L. Willkie is one of my heroes.