Unveiling Nebraska's state quarter

Friday, April 7, 2006

It's Nebraska's turn in the spotlight.

Celebrations around the state today surrounded the release of the Nebraska quarter, the 37th in a popular series that the U.S. Mint began releasing in 1997, with states honored in the order they were admitted to the union.

Nebraska became the 37th state in 1867, and Nevada, Colorado, North Dakota and South Dakota also take their turn this year.

After Nebraskans rejected other designs, a notable Native American, the Sower and the Capitol, the governor selected the coin that begins circulating today.

We have to admit to being less than enthusiastic about the design, which incorporates elements that have been repeated on highway signs and other state advertising over the decades.

It includes the sun to the left, with one person walking beside a covered wagon being pulled by two oxen. Two other people are riding inside. Chimney Rock is to the right, with the words "Chimney Rock" below it.

On further reflection, however, the design is appropriate.

Yes, for the pioneer, Nebraska was mostly a vast track of dry, rolling grassland to be endured before taking on the challenge of the Rocky Mountains. Even today, most travelers think of us as the state that never seems to end as they roll down Interstate 80 toward Denver.

We should be glad, at least, that western Nebraska is represented in the final design.

But even more, what better use of our space on the national currency than to honor those who were willing to risk everything to make life better for themselves and their children?

The pioneers in that covered wagon represent the best of the American spirit. Nebraska can be proud to give them their due.

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