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Renee and Kenny Hulshof: “Our buildings are our history, and I would like to see Missouri do a much better job at preserving those things.”

The state capital stands boldly against a pale blue sky. The yard in front of the capital is green and bright - and a fountain sits in the center of a ring of green bushes
Nate Brown
The state hosted a Missouri Bicentennial Commemoration on August 10, 2021, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Missouri’s entry as the 24th state.

Kenny Hulshof is a former US representative from the Bootheel, and he and his wife, Renee, spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the Missouri Bicentennial Commemoration in August.

They spoke about their family legacy and the importance of remembering our state's past, while also looking to its future.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Kenny Hulshof: I grew up as a kid on a farm, the only kid in our family, my folks couldn't have any other children, and so, I got all the chores on our farm.

And you know, as a kid growing up with your hands in the dirt, you know, you couldn't wait to move away – except that then when your parents pass, and they pass on this legacy that they have built right here in our home state, suddenly, your priorities change.

One of the things that I had the great blessing to do, of course, in addition to representing nearly 700,000 people in the halls of Congress, you know, walking the marble halls when I used to walk barefoot between cotton rows down in Southeast Missouri – but one of the blessings is to get to see all of this state even beyond the boundaries of my own congressional district.

Renee Hulshof: So, when I think of Missouri, and I'm very proud of my home state and I love the mix of people we have urban and rural – the misconceptions is that we're all a bunch of rubes and hicks. We don't make good decisions. That's the criticism right now.

And I would say, maybe, Missouri is more – we live up to our name. We are the “Show Me State,” and if you're going to ask me to do anything, you better show me.

What frustrates me is how we often throw away our heritage and our history. Colombia never met an old house that it didn't want to tear down and build something new on top of, and that makes me sad. I hate that.

I think, you know, our homes are our history and our buildings are our history, and I would like to see Missouri do a much better job at preserving those things so that future generations can see and understand how things have moved and changed over time.

Kenny Hulshof: The fact is, we need to have a keen appreciation for the sweat and the vision and the hard work that it took to accomplish, you know, what we have as a state.

"I'm very proud of my home state and I love the mix of people we have – urban and rural."
Renee Hulshof

So, I think just an appreciation for who we are as a people in our state – providing that foundation for us to then continue to work for the betterment of Missourians in the future.

You know, I'm sure as we look back on today, Missouri is going to continue to have challenges, you know, you think of – what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, you know, will we have events like that in the future? How will we respond, who will our leaders be? And, you know, how can we support them?

You know, we're always going to have those types of challenges – some of them foreseen, for instance, with natural disasters and tornadoes and floods and the like, and some of them unforeseen.

Thankfully, though, I think we Missourians, we common sense Missourians, will continue to look to those to represent us, that will continue to provide that leadership that we will need leading into the future.

And so, today is a great day to pause, reflect upon, you know, those great leaders that we've had, with hope and optimism that we're going to continue to find those leaders for our state in the future.

Lauren Hines is a reporter and producer at KBIA.
Becca Newton is a student reporter and producer at KBIA. They will graduate from the University of Missouri in spring 2022 with a degree in Multimedia Convergence Journalism and minors in Peace Studies and History.