Nebraska City and Arbor Bank’s J. Sterling Morton Award

I was born and raised in Nebraska City, and while I’ve done many things since leaving there when I was 18, something of that place stays with me to this day. It’s hard to put into words, but if I were to try, I’d say it’s the values of integrity and consistency – values I’ve tried to bring to my life and my work.

So it was a great honor when Grant Gregory informed me that Arbor Bank, which is headquartered in Nebraska City, had decided to bestow the J. Sterling Morton Award on me. The oldest state-chartered bank in Nebraska, Arbor Bank – or Otoe County National Bank of Nebraska City, as it was known back then – was the financial cornerstone for my family growing up.

Like everyone who grew up in Nebraska City, I was familiar with J. Sterling Morton. The founder of Arbor Day and a former cabinet officer who returned to the United States Treasury 20% of his department’s appropriated budget when he served as Secretary of Agriculture, Morton had a powerful commitment to environmental conservation and government fiscal responsibility that resonates strongly with me. Indeed, I’ve tried to champion the same values of environmental conservation (through the Ricketts Conservation Foundation) and fiscal responsibility in government (through Ending Spending), so it is a particular honor for me to receive an award that bears his name. I particularly like this quote by Morton:

There is no aristocracy in trees. They are not haughty. They will thrive near the humblest cabin on our fertile prairies, just as well and become just as refreshing to the eye and as fruitful as they will in the shadow of a king’s palace.