Did you know that the geographic center of the continental United States is located in Kansas near the city of Lebanon, approximately 12 miles south of the Kansas-Nebraska border? This is not to be confused with the geographical center of the entire United States which is located somewhere in North Dakota, if you take into account Alaska and Hawaii. Let’s stick with the contiguous states for the sake of argument though. Yup, the breadbasket of the United States; smack-dab in the center of the country in Kansas. If you ever visit the site and take a picture along side the historical marker there, the landscape is less than remarkable. It’s pretty much flat with a lot of fields growing a lot of corn from horizon to horizon. It’s the center of the U.S. though, so that gives it a remarkable enough pedigree to merit a sizable geographic marker.
I’ve always been intrigued by such things. The highest, deepest, driest, wettest, fastest, slowest, biggest, smallest, and so on. I guess that I’m into comparisons. When you’re able to put the extremes next to each other it gives you a real sense of scale, a grasp of “in-between,” a place where most of us dwell. Similarly, the inhabitants of Lebanon, Kansas, have been chosen to be the benign average of things geographically. The average distance to the Pacific is the same as that to the Atlantic. No one in Lebanon can say that they’re closer to one ocean or the other, since both are just as far from Lebanon. I guess living in Lebanon is all about averageness in many ways. Folks in California are as close as folks in New York. And, in a funny sort of way, that make Lebanon’s averageness something special since there is nowhere else in the contiguous United States that can claim what they own, smack-dab mediocrity.
Here is another tidbit of information about geographic centers that’s fascinating. Did you know why Washington, D.C. was chosen to become the site of the new United States capital? Well, George Washington chose the site as the United States capital on July 16, 1790 because at the time it was (surprise) the geographic center of the United States. In 1790 it was the measure of averageness for a new nation just getting started. Out of a sense of fairness and purpose Congress decided that it was important that the nation’s capital was in the middle of something–like the geographic middle. There were reasons for this. Folks living in South Carolina didn’t want to travel further than those living in Maine. Each of the states at the time sent representatives to govern and distance was an important consideration. Washington D.C. was chosen. became federally owned, and a place where people of South and the North, East and the West, could meet to govern, establish laws and determine what was just. Geography was important to our nation’s founders in that regard. Would it not seem fair to you that as a nation today we ought to take note of this wonderful sense of fairness and justice and afford the city of Lebanon, Kansas similar acclaim? Averageness dwells there in all its goodness. What better place to govern, legislate and regulate? Folks from California can get there just as easily as those from New York. Seems fair and good to me. I can’t think of a better place than smack-dab, in between and in the middle of things. Can you? Perhaps it’s time for a change?
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