What it means to be an Iowan


Being an Iowan means that I when I worked as a voice-over actor in New York City they had my accent categorized as “standard,” but I would tell anyone, affecting my best Brooklyn tough guy accent, that I preferred to be categorized as a speaker of “Brokaw” English.

Being an Iowan means that I can walk unassisted thanks to the University of Iowa bringing Ignacio Ponseti to UIHC after he fled the Spanish Civil War in 1941. His treatment plan gave me a life without any major challenges to my mobility.

Being an Iowan means I can tell my children they can marry whomever they like, regardless of their gender, and that they don’t have to hide a part of themselves from me if they discover that they love someone of the same gender.

Being an Iowan means that often, when people visit from bigger cities they ask if that was my family farm they passed on the way and having to explain that what they passed was, in fact, lots of farms and that my family doesn’t have farms anymore and then feeling a little sad that is true.

Being an Iowan means taking pride in firsts: first state to allow women to keep their children in a divorce, allowing them the freedom to leave abusive relationships with their kids; first state to allow women to inherit land and say, “No thanks Uncle Suchandsuch, it was left to ME.”; first American “City of Literature”; first in energy harnessed from wind turbines (2010); first state to free a slave (his name was Ralph); first state in the union to allow women to the practice law; first in the Midwest to permit same-sex marriage ...

Being an Iowan means I refuse to believe that sweet corn from my husband’s home state of New Jersey could be better than Iowa sweet corn. I’m sure it’s decent, if you like that sort of thing.

Being an Iowan means if I’m feeling lonely I can just go for a walk and I’ll run into people I know. It means having a gate between our and our neighbors’ fences — or no fence at all. It means if I go jogging in San Diego wearing an Iowa T-shirt, it’s like throwing up the bat symbol and Iowans will flood the street with friendly hellos.

Being an Iowan means wondering if it’s wise to brag incessantly about the quality of life found here. Part of what’s nice is that it’s not packed to the brim. Yeah, nothing to see here. Keep moving.

Being an Iowan means I don’t just live here, but I am part of a community that remembers me from when I was a little girl starting a school recycling program to when I was a pierced poet wandering barefoot through Hickory Hill Park; knows me as a polished professional giving a presentation and a singer leading a band. For me, being an Iowan means I get to create my life.

Katie Roche is a musician and Development Director at The Englert Theatre in Iowa City. Contact: or (319) 688-2653 ext. 107



We Create Here, an innovative team associated with The Gazette Company, is sponsoring a summer essay series and asking Iowans to share their answer to that question and help promote awareness about Iowa.

Your community contribution can be accepted in the form of a short story, poem, personal essay or original non-fiction work. It can be up to 500 words and must be submitted by the original author. Please include your name, job title, contact information and photo and send submissions to, subject line “What does it mean to be an Iowan?”

Over the course of our Iowan Summer, selected submissions will be published on Top pieces will be selected based on creativity, scope and detail. The top 10 authors will be presented with an Iowan-themed gift basket in recognition for their outstanding perspective.

Submissions will be accepted through 5 p.m. June 23.

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