On Dec. 1, just over a week in advance of the state’s bicentennial, we hosted a special conversation with Indiana historian Dr. James H. Madison and Eric Halvorson (watch it in full, here). Eric, a producer on the final episode of a four-part series for WFYI called Hoosiers: The Story of Indiana, talked with Jim about the people they met and the things they saw on the road while filming the episode, called “Next Indiana” and produced in part with Indiana Humanities. If you weren’t able to join us, here are five things we learned from our INconversation with Jim Madison and Eric Halvorson:
- You can’t talk about the future without acknowledging the past. Although Jim acknowledged that you don’t have to watch the first three episodes of Hoosiers: The Story of Indiana to appreciate the future-focused episode called “Next Indiana,” he did encourage us all to see the way Indiana has evolved over the course of history so that we can truly see the issues and challenges that are ahead. (You can still watch all of the episodes online here.)
- “There’s so much to be proud of that’s setting us up for this new century.” After Eric made this statement, he and Jim enthusiastically talked about how the people they met—from Warsaw to Jasper—were just darn good Hoosiers, and had great ideas, passions and interests. “It renewed my faith and appreciation in Hoosiers,” said Jim. Never forget—Jim reminded us—that gutsy individuals and the right leadership can make a real difference in both small towns and big cities.
- Hoosiers are not perfect. We have failed again and again. Our past hasn’t always been so rosy. Another WFYI documentary on the Crispus Attucks High School is an example of that. We also tend to forget how diverse of a people we are and always have been. In the 1850s Indiana’s legislature ordered the governor’s message to be printed in both English and German, Jim reminded us.
- Indiana’s relationship with innovation is tricky. On one hand, we’re a risk-averse people (we can thank the canal disaster in the 1830s for that). But on the other, we have a legacy of risk-takers and innovators in this state. Warsaw is an example of what people can do when they have an idea. Eli Lilly and other contemporary entrepreneurs brought jobs to Indianapolis. And don’t discount our farmers, who also have a long history of innovating and working with sophisticated technology.
- Think about the things that didn’t make the documentary, and find a way to tell those stories. So many stories didn’t make the cut. Now, it’s up to all of us to shine a spotlight on those successes. It’s also up to all of us to think about what’s next. How can we take action as a result of what we’ve learned? (Interested in a hosting a film discussion about the documentary? We have a discussion toolkit for you!)
Special thanks to WFYI for hosting us, and for their partnership on this project. Thanks also, of course, to Jim and Eric for sharing their thoughts about Indiana’s past and future during this very pivotal time.