I was raised in the heartland. Central Illinois. Where it was both the heat and the humidity. When my daughter visited my old stomping grounds with me for the first time a few years back, we climbed out of our air-conditioned car at a gas station a few miles below Peoria and she gave me a look across the top of the car that can best be described as horrified.
"You lived here?" she asked.
"We didn't know any better," I told her.
I didn't know any better about a lot of things back then. For years I followed an economic ethic that did not serve me well, for which I, in the best tradition of all of us, blamed my parents.
My mother, I tell people, was a Christian. She taught me to be altruistic and never keep that for myself that could be better used elsewhere.
My father, I go on, was a businessman, and he taught me to be independent and never take anything from anybody.
It took me far too long to figure out that this was not a viable economic plan. I had to teach myself to accept help. I had to teach myself to say no. I learned that if I was meticulous about returning favors and making good use of those I received that I could ask for help when I needed it. I learned that saying no to some requests made it possible for me to say yes to others.
I taught myself a new economics. I'm not rich, but I have friends.
Today I listened to Obama's speech from Kansas, and I heard echoes of everything my parents taught me transformed into an economics that makes even more sense than the little adjustments I have made. All of us, in some way, from the heartland. I only hope my old homeland takes it to heart.