On June 1st, the Commonwealth of Kentucky will celebrate the 225th anniversary of its admittance as a state into the Union. Originally a part of Virginia known as “the Kentucky County,” it became the 15th state of this nation in 1792. So today, I want to celebrate my home state of Kentucky, a place the Native American Wyandot nation called the “land of tomorrow.” Once considered the far western frontier, Kentucky has developed into a state with diverse industries, a strong heritage, and international prominence.
When you think about my home state, many things follow as distinctly Kentuckian. The natural beauty of our mountains, farmlands and river ways foster deep love. Blessed with fertile land and an abundance of coal, Kentucky's cultural heritage has developed in both the fields and the mines. The proud tradition of the Commonwealth includes bourbon and basketball, but also pioneers, statesmen, artists, scholars, and athletes.
From the days of Daniel Boone’s heroic exploration through the Cumberland Gap, Kentucky has been home to numerous courageous men and women. The trailblazing spirit has animated Kentuckians from all walks of life throughout the generations. A pioneer of abdominal surgery, Ephraim McDowell expanded the boundaries of medical science. Tori Murden McClure rowed across the Atlantic Ocean as the first American and first woman to brave the waters alone. Responsible for a world famous fried chicken recipe, Colonel Harland Sanders franchised his store at the age of 62 and taught us all that it’s never too late to chase our passion. Acclaimed news anchor Diane Sawyer, born in Glasgow, began her career as a weather forecaster in Louisville. And Muhammad Ali, an international sports legend, became a global ambassador for peace.
The Commonwealth has given rise to statesmen who have defended the Union, protected our liberties, and represented Kentucky values. Leaders like Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln, and Alben Barkley each left an indelible imprint on the history of our nation. Civil rights icon Georgia Powers fought against racial injustice in our state, inspired Kentucky to open public accommodations, and was the first African American to serve in the Kentucky state Senate.
Kentucky’s poets, musicians, and actors have garnered international acclaim for their craft. Jesse Stuart’s poems and short stories captured the beauty of Kentucky’s mountains, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Penn Warren described the unbreakable link between poetry and democracy. The National Quilt Museum in Paducah is a global center of creativity and tourism. Kentucky is also home to music legends and Grammy Award winners like Loretta Lynn and Chris Stapleton and the birthplace of entertainment stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, George Clooney, and Johnny Depp.
In the world’s greatest college basketball rivalry between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, legendary coaches and unforgettable players have, for decades, kept fans on the edges of their seats until the final buzzer. For over 140 years, the Kentucky Derby has been known as a mile and a quarter that makes champions and brings the eyes of the world to Louisville.
I am exceptionally proud to represent Kentucky in the United States Senate, and I am forever grateful to the people of my home state for giving me the opportunity to do just that. Kentucky has a distinguished history, and I’m confident that trailblazers and pioneers from across the Bluegrass State will continue to make it the land of tomorrow. It’s my honor to call the Commonwealth my home, and I look forward to celebrating this 225th anniversary.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the Senate majority leader.