Congressman Jason Smith

Congressman Jason Smith

Still Worth Fighting For

Last month we celebrated over 240 years of our nation’s independence, but this Saturday we celebrate an equally momentous occasion: Missouri statehood. For 198 years, rural Missouri values have instilled the tenets of individual liberty, moral responsibility, and the importance of providing for your family.

My family has proudly called Missouri home since long before it was a state, and as a seventh-generation Missourian, I could not be prouder of our noble state for reaching its 198thbirthday. I loved growing up in a community that still puts the emphasis on our good old fashioned values. I grew up working on my grandfather’s farm and it—more than anything—taught me the importance of working hard for the things that matter. It is these lessons and values that I was raised on and take with me to Washington to fight and preserve our way of life.

We know that fighting to maintain the liberty our forefathers fought and died to secure is paramount. In Missouri, we have always put the rights of individual citizens above the desires of the government. That means freedom to use your private lands for whatever you see fit. And that is why for generations, Missourians have toiled in their bountiful and beautiful fields in America’s heartland, fed a striving nation westward, and produced crops that remain the envy of the world.

Long before Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark’s expedition westward, or becoming the gateway to the west, the State of Missouri has been at the heart of America’s history of adventure and experiment in self-government. The first community settled west of the Mississippi dates back to early 1700s and was located in present-day Ste. Genevieve County. Our area continues to contain equal portions of the quaint communities that define the American experience and the beautiful aesthetics of the great American landscape. 

Our area is also home to Missouri’s only national forest: The Mark Twain National Forest. In total, it encompasses roughly 1.5 million acres, mostly within the Ozark Highlands, which contain large permanent springs, over 5,000 caves, rocky barren glades, old volcanic mountains, and nationally recognized streams. We are so blessed to have such natural wonders in our own backyard. Another such treasure is the iconic Alley Mill at the edge of Alley Spring on the foothills of the Ozarks. The United States mint selected a depiction of this mill to serve as the 38thcoin in the America the Beautiful Quarters Program. I attended the official quarter launch ceremony in Eminence, MO and am so proud to share a small piece of our beautiful scenery with the whole nation. 

It is our historic and charming local communities that generations of Missourians have decided to set up shop, knowing it was the best place to build a business and raise a family.  As Missourians celebrate our statehood, I hope we can also pay attention and reflect on the importance our thriving local communities have played in our state’s history. There are several communities in our area that have celebrated significant anniversaries in the past year. Madison, Jefferson, and Wayne Counties have all celebrated bicentennials recently. For 200 years, these communities have been quintessential homes to proud Missourians. 

In Madison County, back in the early 17thcentury, Osage and Kickapoo Indians created trade routes in the rolling farmland and heavily forested hills. The lead mine, considered to be the oldest west of the Mississippi, dates back to original French settlers. In Jefferson County, this lead was used to create bullets that armed U.S. soldiers against the British during the War of 1812. And Wayne County, seated at the beautiful foothills of the Ozarks was home to a number of Civil War battles. And, at one point, the Union General William Hardee headquartered his troops in the county seat of Greenville. These communities of duty and pride have displayed for generations the spirit of the Show-Me State.  

While Missouri communities are strongly connected to their past, we remain focused on the future with a common pride and optimism. It is in these communities that we will raise the next generation of leaders. Leaders like Missouri’s own Harry Truman, who as President famously negotiated the end to World War II aboard the USS Missouri. Leaders like Missouri born-and-raised Walter Cronkite, who comforted a nation through the assassination of President Kennedy and fairly explained crises both near and far to become the most trusted man in America. And leaders like Walt Disney, whose brilliant imagination gave birth to hundreds of timeless stories that continue to enchant our children’s lives. 

Here in Missouri, our local communities remain the driving force for good in our society because we put our values of liberty and ingenuity before broken government promises. To me, 198 years later, those are still the values worth fighting for.