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Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).

The Nebraska Lottery: How a $30,000 Campaign Leveraged a Half-Billion Dollar Payout

By Randy Moody

I recently saw a news item that said since 1993 more than $489 million has been raised from the Nebraska Lottery for education programs, the Environmental Trust Fund and some other beneficiary groups, including the State Fair. This story served as a reminder that it’s been 20 years since I managed the campaign for the ballot measure, Constitutional Amendment 1A, to authorize the State of Nebraska to create and operate the lottery.

On Nov. 3, 1992, Nebraskans approved the constitutional amendment by a 62 to 38 percent majority. A total of 440,973 Nebraskans voted for the amendment, and 267,928 voted against it. The amendment received a majority of the votes in 84 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Friends of Education and the Environment, the name of the campaign committee supporting the lottery amendment, raised and spent a mere $30,080 for the successful effort.

This despite the fact that the lottery was opposed by spokespeople for most mainline Protestant denominations, some Jewish rabbis, two former governors and just about every daily newspaper in the state.

A Fresh Look at Free Will, Part Two

By Clay Farris Naff

Before he gained fame as a writer, Sam Harris, author of a widely read book that denies the existence of free will, earned a doctorate in the hard science of brains. As a neuroscientist, he naturally doesn’t believe in souls.

Nor, for that matter, do I. However, to dismiss souls from the realm of causation is not to douse the debate. There are versions of free will that do not depend on souls or magic of any kind. The one I defend, as sketched in Part One, springs from emergent, top-down causation.

Nebraska Trails

By Caitlin Hassler

Nebraska has always been a corridor for travel. The pioneers traveled through Nebraska on their westward journey on the Oregon Trail, the California Trail and the Mormon Trail in covered wagon caravans. The cowboys drove herds of cattle through Nebraska to the railroads. And don’t forget all the road trips Nebraska has seen from the historic highways to Interstate 80. Today is no different. Nebraska was meant to be traveled, and possibly the best way to experience Nebraska travel is on foot or on a bike because Nebraska has extensive trails across the state.

America’s Middle Class: Is It in Trouble?

Chart 1. Distribution of Annual Household Income in the United States, 2010 Estimate. (U.S. Census Bureau)

By Loretta Fairchild

One curious detail from the rhetoric of the last two elections was that the political conversation only focused on “the middle class,” as if all sides refused to acknowledge that the poor had any relevance. And since lots of others have bandied the term about, I’m feeling free to jump on the bandwagon here.

The following quote from Foster and Wolfson provides a fairly standard summary of the importance of the middle class:

“The presence of a sizable, well-off middle class is typically presumed to be an important factor in the growth and development of today’s successful industrial economies. The middle class provides much of the labor force for the economy and is a key market for the national product. A large portion of a country’s tax revenue is collected directly or indirectly from the middle class. It also has a special role in the relative political stability these nations have enjoyed. According to Lester Thurow [see their footnote 32,] ‘A healthy middle class is necessary to have a healthy political democracy. A society made up of rich and poor has no mediating group either politically or economically.’”

A Fresh Look at Free Will, Part One: Can We Hold Anyone Responsible for the Boston Marathon Bombings?

By Clay Farris Naff

What caused a pair of bombs to go off at the Boston Marathon on April 15? One correct answer could be a fuse, but that would be unsatisfying. We want to know who is responsible for the atrocity. Much effort is now being made to apportion blame. But what if the answer is no one? What if no one is ever responsible for anything?

Golfing in Nebraska

By Caitlin Hassler

Nebraska is a sanctuary for golfers, and our golf paradise is ranked one of the country’s top 10 golf states by “Golf Digest.” Courses across the state have received national recognition and accolades for their design, scenery and value.

Golfers make their pilgrimage to Nebraska courses for the wide-open spaces, commanding vistas, sprawling natural terrain and diverse playing conditions. The 200 public and semiprivate golf courses span over the differing terrain in the state—whistling, windswept prairies; gently sloping sandhills; lush river valleys; plus a few canyons and national monuments thrown in for good measure.

Recapture the Open Road along the Lincoln Highway

Spanning across Interstate 80, the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument near Kearney, Neb., delivers a one-of-a-kind interactive experience. (J. Nabb/Nebraska Tourism)

By Shannon Peterson

Today’s road trips are often as much about getting there as they are about enjoying the final destination. But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, in the early 1900s the journey was more of an exercise in patience and determination than it was a relaxing getaway. The country lacked quality roads linking cities and towns, meaning travel was a monumental undertaking.

Many travelers know little of the road that literally paved the way for our now easy cross-country travel. This year the Lincoln Highway turns 100, and there’s no better time to celebrate this oft-forgotten icon.

Sand Hills Discover Experience 2013

By Keevin Arent

On Jan. 1, 1863, Illinois native Daniel Freeman filed a claim for a parcel of land near Beatrice, Neb., under the terms of The Homestead Act signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. He was one of the first Americans to do so. This was the beginning of a great exodus to western lands, even though the young and energetic nation was embroiled in a conflict threatening to tear its sinews and muscles from its very skeletal frame.

In 1854 Illinois Sen. Stephan Douglas had introduced The Kansas-Nebraska Act, leaving the issue of slavery to be decided by the newly acquired states themselves. A number of Douglas’s fellow democrats and Northern Whigs argued it nullified the provisions of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 that banned slavery north of a line extending west from Missouri’s southern border.

What's Your Degree Worth?: Bright Outlooks on a Dim Economy

By Callie Rietfors

With spring graduation ceremonies fast approaching, many college seniors have been caught up in the desperate, stressful job hunt. Many of them, in a panic to ensure income, often consider settling for jobs outside of the area in which they earned their degrees. This raises many questions: how beneficial is a college degree anymore? Does it really set you apart, or does it merely keep you up to speed with the rest of the workforce? Many students are pursuing their master’s degrees directly out of their undergraduate studies, but is graduate school necessary to be competitive in the job search nowadays?

The Post and Courier announced that an Associated Press analysis found that “college graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history or humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their educational level; those with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees were among the most likely.” However, in a survey of recent and soon-to-be college graduates, I found a wide range of diverse majors with jobs in their fields of study.

"Just Like Hitler"

By Mark Gudgel

My wife, Sonja, spent three-and-a-half years of her youth in Great Britain, the only daughter of a member of the United States Air Force stationed overseas. Fondly she recalls field trips to Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, while most of my school trips were to the city park to collect water samples from the Minnechaduza Creek to be later utilized in science class. One of my wife’s favorite memories of a school trip from her childhood life in the U.K. was of the time that her class had gone to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, and for that reason she and I revisited that special place on her recent trip to London. In case you haven’t had the pleasure, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum is an immense and densely packed maze, populated half by creepy, somewhat lifelike figurines of famous people and half by rabid packs of tourists snapping pictures of themselves with said mannequins on their iPhones. I will not pretend that my wife and I enjoyed the experience very much, her nostalgia dissipating quickly as we queued for great lengths of time just to pass from room to room, though in the end it was not without a takeaway.

Reap the Benefits of Traveling in Nebraska

By Shannon Peterson

The first full week of May is National Travel and Tourism Week. Simply put, the annual celebration gives us the opportunity to recognize the important role travel plays in our lives and our state.

Travel has a profound impact on our lives and our economy. It grows businesses and provides opportunity. It reinvents and reinvigorates the economy.

Passport 2013

By Shannon Peterson

There are more places to see and things to do in Nebraska than one can imagine. After all, one is able to follow in the footsteps of great explorers, pioneers and writers; discover wildlife from the prairie and revel in the state’s natural wonders; and get in touch with Nebraska’s rich cultural heritage at cafes, museums and galleries. Yet, it’s surprising to learn that many people, travelers and residents alike, don’t recognize what Nebraska has to offer.

The Nebraska Passport program is changing those perceptions and opening eyes to the state’s opportunities. The program was created by the Nebraska Tourism Commission to be fun and simple as it encourages travelers and residents to explore Nebraska, collect stamps from participating attractions and redeem them for prizes.

Can Religion Embrace Science to Save the World?

By Clay Farris Naff

I may be a science journalist and, worse yet, an atheist, but I’m old enough to know that faith can be a force for good. Way back in the days of the Vietnam War, when I was just 13, an Episcopal priest took me and several other future draftees to the armed forces recruiting office in Philadelphia to protest. Rev. Scott didn’t have publicity or personal gain in mind; protesting slaughter was just his way of living out his faith. Did we end the war? Well, perhaps not. All I’m saying is the draft ended months before I was due to be called up.

Scott was one of three ministers who lived on the West Philadelphia block where we lived. The other two were black. Ours was one of the first to integrate, and it’s no accident that clergy on both sides of the racial divide led the way. Following the King assassination, Rev. Scott took a bunch of us to the National Cathedral in Washington for a reconciliation service. I’ll never forget tearfully linking arm in arm with thousands of people to sing “We Shall Overcome.”

The Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

By Tom Field, Ph.D.

The late Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead fame aptly described the current state of our economic condition when he opined that “somebody has got to do something and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.” The heart of the message is simply that rebuilding the economy will fall to the citizens, not to politicos, agencies or pundits. As director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), it is my deeply held belief that the momentum for an economic turnaround will be sourced from the heartland and that the resurgence for engaged citizenship, accountability and resourcefulness can be fueled by the relationships and capabilities of the land-grant university community.

A Newcomer's Thoughts on Omaha's Urban Landscape

Omaha skyline along the banks of the Missouri River. (DenisTangneyJr/iStockPhoto)

By Bradley Bereitschaft

Having arrived in Omaha just six months ago, the city and I are still engaged in what I like to call the honeymoon phase. As so happens when getting to know a potential life partner, I have already begun to appreciate some traits more than others.

When interviewing for the position that ultimately brought me to the “Big O,” one of the first places I was introduced to was the Old Market. I can’t imagine a better place to showcase Omaha’s budding urban vitality.

Life Is Large in Nebraska's Wide-Open Spaces

By Tamera Schlueter

I once knew a big city swell who said, “Nebraska! Isn’t that in corn country?” Corn was emphasized as though he was spitting out something vile. The unexpected tone of his question shocked me speechless, and I missed a perfect opportunity to plant a verbal boot on his soft, pompous rump.

“Corn country?” I might have replied. “Why, yes, indeed, Mr. Marvelous, I live in a state others consider so remote it takes elitist fools like you a good long time to find it on the map.”

His question surfaces from time to time, when I’m rattling down dusty back roads, watching angry green clouds churn up a hailstorm or butting heads with a 50-mile-per-hour wind.

What on earth am I doing in corn country?

Strengthening Your Inner Leader

By Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., CPC

After my mom’s unexpected passing two years ago, I received a mini-book on grief from the pastor of my church. The book, “Grief … Reminders for Healing” by Gale Massey, was perfect! I could read it quickly and easily when I needed help dealing with Mom’s death. I also gave a copy to Dad, who found himself suddenly struggling with being a widower after 45 years of marriage.

I began writing as well, a bit of therapy to deal with Mom’s death. The result: my forthcoming book, “Go Wild with Confidence!” My goal was to publish a book designed to help others as much as Gale Massey’s book helped me.

As a researcher and coach in the areas of leadership and innovation, I noticed one issue my clients struggle with most: confidence. Many people have great ideas and a wonderful sense of what they want to do with their lives, but they lack the confidence and inner strength that enables them to move in the right direction. It has taken me over a decade of research focused on leading innovation, entrepreneurial individuals and major life events to understand the significance of focusing on strengthening what I call the Inner Leader. I do not want it to take so long for others to come to this realization. It is my greatest hope that a piece of my work can help you tap into the essence of yourself—your Inner Leader.

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