116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
There's been talk under the Golden Dome of Wisdom that Iowa should update its welcome signs greeting travelers at the border. A bill has been filed that would provide $350,000 in funding for a bunch of new signs.
Since news broke of this signage concern, I've been contacted by readers wondering when I would address the issue in a column. Do they really think I'd use this sort of low-hanging fruit to kill fish in a barrel? They do, and I clearly would.
Iowans have rarely been universally pleased with efforts to re-brand the state. As a kid I recall the raging debate over then-Gov. Terry Branstad's plan to put 'A State of Minds” on our Iowa license plates. It was supposed to convey our leadership in education. Many people thought it sounded strange and the idea was dropped.
I was at the State Fair in 1999 when then Gov. Tom Vilsack unveiled the slogan currently gracing most of our aging welcome signs - 'Fields of Opportunities.” I don't recall a standing ovation. It replaced 'Iowa - You Make Me Smile,” which was also less than popular.
Our current branding slogan is 'This is Iowa.” It's very straightforward and helpful if someone happens to ask you 'Is this heaven?”
I liked an even older Iowa slogan 'Iowa - A Place to Grow.” Simple and agrarian, without beating you over the head with a cornstalk. But it's been scrapped, including the Capitol complex monument that once greeted visitors coming off I-235.
This discussion is popping up as the actions of our Statehouse leaders have left us re-evaluating our ideas about Iowa. You may catch a hint of that in some of my suggestions.
Here's some samples:
'Iowa - Our Windmills Don't Freeze.”
'Iowa - Now with Almond Milk.”
'Iowa - Home of the First-In-the-Nation Presidential Caucuses. Maybe!”
'Iowa - America's Very White Marshmallow Center.”
'Iowa - Our Liberties we Prize and Your Reproductive Rights We Will Mansplain.”
'Iowa - Home of Breathtaking I-80 Vistas.”
'Iowa - Home to Real Americans, and Iowa City.”
'Iowa - Former Home to Three World-Class State Universities.”
'Iowa - You'll be Charmed, but We're Heavily Armed.”
'Iowa - A Place to Test Really Bad Ideas from Conservative Think Tanks.”
'Iowa - A Place that Floods a Lot More than it Used To, For Some Reason.”
'Iowa - America's COVID Playground. Masks optional!”
'Iowa - Nice! (As far as you know).”
'Iowa - A Place.”
Danny Carroll, a lobbyist for the conservative Family Leader organization, told lawmakers recently during a debate over diversity training that 'Iowa does not have racism.”
So how about 'Iowa - Now with No Racism.” Derisive laughter may become a leading cause of highway accidents.
After following the Republican Legislature's work over the past several weeks, it may seem like Iowa is becoming less welcoming. Perhaps our signage should reflect that.
'Welcome to Iowa!”
That sign would be followed by more signs over several miles:
'Teachers using the 1619 project.”
'Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists.”
'A bunch of other scary acronyms.”
'Green New Dealers.”
Lawmakers' exploration of reducing rights for transgender Iowans, especially the so-called 'bathroom bill, have been troubling.
'Iowa - We Care Very Much Where You Pee.”
Maybe we could turn this into a sponsorship opportunity.
'Welcome to Iowa, Presented by the Farm Bureau Federation.”
'Iowa - A Place to Grow Roundup Ready Crops by Monsanto.”
'Iowa - A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Trump Organization.”
'Welcome to Amazonowa Prime.”
Our agricultural industries and commitment to the environment are ripe with sloganeering possibilities.
'Land of 750 Impaired Waterbodies.”
Take that, Minnesota.
'Three Million People and 24 million Hogs Welcome You.”
'The Dead Zone Starts Here.”
'God Made a Farmer. He Also Commands You to Use Ethanol.”
But I think my final pick does a good job of capturing the essence of our times, as Iowa transitions to the sort of red state bastion GOP lawmakers are working so hard to create.
'Welcome Young Professionals Visiting Your Parents.”
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