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One plate to unite Kansans

Cowtowns & Skyscrapers: Nothing has united Kansans more than the recent license plate dust-up.

Jennifer M. Latzke

December 29, 2023

3 Min Read
Kansas license plate
FINAL DESIGN: After some ruckus, Kansans chose a final state license plate design. It’s one of the few times in recent memory we’ve come together over something. Photo courtesy of Kansas Governor’s Office

People outside of Kansas don’t get it.

They have their preconceived notions of this state, whether it’s how flat our terrain may be, monochromatic vistas, or our politics. The truth is, though, the people of the 105 counties of this state are as diverse as any other state in the union.

Sure, we squabble, and sometimes it dips into outright hostility. But just like siblings in the largest dysfunctional family, we pull together in a time of need.

You just have to look at the recent license plate dust-up in our state to see how we can pull together when the occasion calls for it.

There was a bipartisan outcry among my friends of both sides of the political spectrum when the first license plate redesign was announced in late November. It gave everyone, as the kids say, the “ick.”

I get the design choices behind the proposed plate; I do. The gold representing the fields of wheat, and the dark navy band representing the night sky, with our state logo across the bottom,  and “to the stars” harkening to our state’s tourism campaign. It made sense at a design level.

But it felt too modern to be “Kansas.”

And boy, we sure made our voices heard. Both sides of the aisle, and all four corners of this state, raised a ruckus. It’s one of the few times in recent memory that I can recall so much agreement on one topic across all kinds of Kansans. We did not like that design.

It was enough of a ruckus that the governor’s office paused the process and allowed the public to vote on a final design. And while this final design is not exactly everyone’s choice, it’ll do for a while until we change the state license plate again in another decade or so.

Look, we Kansans don’t agree on a lot of things. We argue over politics and water, universities and sports teams. We will go toe-to-toe with a neighbor over a fence line and a wayward bull. We’ll march with signs and grumble in church pews. We bicker more than we agree.

It’s been that way our whole statehood and before, really.

But I’ve also seen us pull together in amazing circumstances. And not just over license plates.

I’ve seen hostile neighbors put it all aside after a tornado has wiped a town off the map. Funny thing, no one cares about property lines when you’re holding them while their world has crumbled and helping them dig through rubble to find anything to save.

I’ve watched countless communities pull together to finish a farmer’s harvest, to fund cancer treatment for a child, and search for a lost boy. Not once did anyone check voting cards before the help was gladly accepted by worried and weary neighbors.

Because at the end of the day, despite our differences, we are Kansans. We come together in times of need.

Oh, the arguments will start again in time, sure. That’s how it is with family.

But for one, too-brief moment in 2023, we were united as Kansans.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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