Last year, a group of RBHS students took their idea – a day to celebrate what makes the middle section of our country unique – all the way to the capitol. Well, 30 minutes south to the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City. Lead by 2013 alumnus Stephen Turban, this movement culminated in an official proclamation by Gov. Jay Nixon declaring April 30 Midwest Pride Day.
“I had the lucky opportunity to travel a little bit and meet some kids from other states the summer [before] my super-senior year and I was talking to people … and I really noticed this pattern,” Turban said. “Kids from, say, California would say ‘Oh yeah, I’m from California,’ and kids from New York would say ‘Oh yeah, I’m from New York,’ kids from the South would say ‘I’m from the South.’ The next thing that I noticed was that people from the Midwest – Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, etc. – would say where they’re from and then feel like they’d have to [qualify] it: ‘Oh, I’m from Nebraska but don’t worry, everyone’s very literate. I noticed I kinda did that and thought, ‘Why do we have to do this?’ I realized I didn’t want to do that because I really loved where I’m from.”
Turban met a girl from Australia during his travels – who coincidentally now attends Harvard with him – who told him about “Australia Day.” This made Turban think more about how he could help celebrate his roots. This is what he considers his first step towards creating Midwest Pride Day. First, however, he had to get it through the government.
“First, I went to speak with other [RBHS students] about it so I got a group, mainly of friends … and said ‘Hey, this is what I really believe in, and if anyone else has got a burning passion for the Midwest…’ There was a good core group, four or five of us, who thought, ‘We can do this.’ We started a plan of action,” Turban said. “One of the big plans of action was to get official recognition, so our first trip was to the governor’s office. That was a lot of just being persistent, calling and lobbying – you have to fill out an application, you have to stay in contact with the office, you just have to be persistent.”
Ultimately, Turban and his group got recognition of the day from Gov. Nixon. As for the actual date of the holiday, April 30 is the anniversary of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase. That act, Turban said, symbolizes the expansion of the nation into the Midwest, as well as how the land purchased makes up much of what is now that region. While there were no formal celebrations of Midwest Pride Day this year, Turban says he doesn’t want it to become huge, but for it just to remain a small holiday. Junior Jilly Dos Santos, who helped Turban with his proposal last year, said that the Midwest is amazing.
“The Midwest can be the butt of a lot of jokes – we’re unsophisticated, we’re all farmers, we live in the middle of nowhere – you know what I mean,” Dos Santos said. “To me, though, the Midwest has been amazing. I’ve still met all sorts of people and gone to fun events, including True/False, which has become famous nation-wide. The people make it the best though.”
Although Midwest Pride Day is – for now – a purely local phenomenon, Turban said he’s talked to classmates at Harvard about his pride in the Midwest, and has also debunked stereotypes about his home. One student even thought that the Midwest was the most dangerous place in the U.S. Dos Santos likes to keep in mind just how important this region of the nation has been.
“In the Midwest, people are down to earth and don’t make as big of a deal over themselves and their accomplishments [as people from the coasts],” Dos Santos said. “We make up a large demographic of the country and it’s important to remember that and be proud of our contributions to America.”
By Brett Stover