Indiana was admitted as the 19th state to join the Union on December 11, 1816. We celebrate this date every year in what is commonly referred to as Statehood Day, and on Wednesday, Indiana turned 197 years old. Celebrations took place all over the state with some special events happening in Indianapolis.
Indiana has changed a lot since the first delegates assembled at Corydon in 1816 to write our state’s constitution. Our state’s storied history is unique and a critical component of students’ academic studies. As a part of our education system, all Hoosier fourth grade students are invited to participate in a statewide essay competition to celebrate Statehood Day. This year, the topic was to write about who their “Hoosier Hero” is and why. Skylar Ashcraft, a student at Sacred Heart School in Warsaw, came in second place and led the celebrations at the Indiana State Museum where she read her essay.
Skylar wrote about Ryan White, a teenager born in Kokomo, Ind. who wanted Americans to be more aware of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Ryan was born on December 6, 1971 and was diagnosed with Hemophilia A, a hereditary blood coagulation disorder when he was three days old. For this disorder, Ryan received weekly blood transfusions, and in 1984 when Ryan was thirteen years old, doctors discovered he had AIDS.
Because communities were not educated about AIDS many parents and teachers signed a petition for Ryan not to come to school. Afterwards, the family decided to move and start a new life. Support came from many different areas such as Michael Jackson, Bobby Knight and President Ronald Reagan. In 1988, Ryan spoke before the Presidents Commission on the HIV Epidemic and expressed his goal to inform communities about AIDS awareness and prejudice.
Skyler wrote, “Ryan White is a hero because he stood up for himself and others like him. Ryan courageously fought his illness, and the ignorance of the community. What I learned from Ryan was even though people are different in some ways we’re all equal.” I couldn’t agree more with Skyler.
Every year Statehood Day brings to life the rich history of Indiana. I’m encouraged to see our youngest turn out and see history in action. I’m proud to be a Hoosier and proud to live in a state where we celebrate our traditions and embrace the future.
We are only three years away from our state’s bicentennial celebration, which is being planned even now. To learn more, please visit www.indiana2016.org.