The American flag has featured 50 stars since 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union. That means more than six decades have passed since the United States last expanded, long after Arkansas was admitted as the 25th state.
In fact, June 15th marks 186 years since The Natural State achieved statehood. Events over the nearly two centuries since then have profoundly shaped and influenced the history, culture, and direction of our state. This week, as we celebrate the anniversary of this occasion, we have an opportunity to remember how Arkansas’ history has unfolded and renew our hope in the promise of an even brighter future.
From the Quapaw tribe of Native Americans who inhabited the land when French and Spanish explorers discovered it, giving rise to the name Arkansas first as a reference to the indigenous residents and then to the territory itself, to the citizens who reside here today, everyone understands what majestic that this place is and why it is so special.
That also helps in part to explain the nicknames Arkansas has acquired over time, including The Wonderful State, The Land of Opportunity, and now The Natural State.
There is a clear and deep appreciation for the inherently beautiful geographical variety it displays. Over time, that reality has helped draw visitors from across the country and the world to experience and appreciate what the state legislature formally described as “unrivaled scenery, clear lakes, free-flowing streams, magnificent rivers, meandering swamps, delta lowlands, forested mountains, and abundant fish and wildlife” that are easily found here.
But it’s not just the land and natural resources that set it apart. We know that the people and communities here are equally integral features of Arkansas history.
Like most other states, this land was once a frontier that presented both promise and risk to settlers seeking a fresh start. That gave rise to a flourishing society that spread to every corner of modern day Arkansas. Demographics and population centers continue to change, but Arkansans remain true to our unique heritage and wonderful traditions that bring families, friends, and neighbors together.
Folklore like the Traveler from Arkansas and community celebrations like the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival or the Gillett Coon Dinner demonstrate a shared sense of identity that unites us and invites people to be a part of something greater than themselves. themselves.
These events, and the towns and cities that host them, are proud of the rich heritage they represent.
The state is not the only entity marking a milestone this year. The communities of Lonoke, Judsonia and Brinkley are turning 150 years old, while Joiner and Smackover celebrate their centenary in 2022.
There is never a shortage of opportunities to celebrate Arkansas and what sets it apart. The 186 years that have passed since it became a state are a testament to the resilience of our people and the institutions we have built. No natural disaster or man-made crisis has been able to conquer our spirit or bring us down enough to prevent us from getting back up.
As we look to the future, I am confident that we will continue to find ways to help future generations of Arkansans prosper while elevating our state on many fronts. We have a history of doing just that by bridging gaps, finding common ground, and putting our motto into practice: Regnat Populus, “the people rule.”
This state and its people are not giving up, and that won’t change when we’re celebrating the next anniversary or the next exciting moment in history.