Missouri turned 200 years old Tuesday. A bicentennial ceremony was held at the state Capitol that drew a number of dignitaries and public officials who commented on our state’s heritage and its distinguishing characteristics.

 

One of those dignitaries was Kit Bond, a former U.S. Senator and two-term Missouri governor. The Mexico, Missouri, native is one of our state’s more visible elder statesmen. Part cheerleader, part lobbyist, the 82-year-old Bond is still a fierce advocate for our state and its future. The commemoration of the state’s 200th anniversary is the kind of event you would expect to find Bond.

In an interview with Missourinet, Bond said that during his terms as governor, he witnessed the “Spirit of Missouri,” saying Show-Me State residents have rallied around and for others for 200 years.

“We had tough days, but we always came out,” Bond Said. “People rallied behind us when we told them what the problem was, whether it was floods or even prison riots or tornadoes.”

Bond, a Republican, spoke fondly of working with Democrats in the General Assembly during a budget crisis and to get important initiatives passed such as the Parents as Teachers bill.

Sam Panettiere, a former Bond aide, wrote about the lessons he learned from the senator’s willingness to compromise in order to get important things done for Missourians when the circumstances called for it in a commentary last November.

In a spot-on analysis of the current state of politics, he spoke of the need for more moderation, compromise and pragmatism in politics and how his boss “fought like hell” against Democrats but in a civil and honest way and by emphasizing policy contrasts and not the politics of personal destruction.

Two hundred years after its founding, our state faces a number of vexing challenges that demand more moderation, compromise and pragmatism from our political leaders — not the extremism that is far too evident in both political parties currently.

Infrastructure, population stagnation, crime, making health care more affordable and accessible and the many issues that involve the growing urban/rural divide in our state are among those pressing challenges confronting our state.

But perhaps none are more glaring right now than the issues surrounding our state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Missouri’s low vaccination rate caused it to become the new COVID-19 epicenter. Why is that? Why can’t we have a more balanced, commonsense approach to COVID that doesn’t wallow in either extreme on this public health issue?

We need to recover some of that “Spirit of Missouri” that Bond spoke of this past week — the spirit that has made our state great. Our state leaders, and frankly all Missourians, need to chart a more principled and practical course going forward on COVID and every other challenge facing our state.

Now is the time for less extremism — the kind that is pulling us apart and holding us back — and more statesmanship in our state.