Despite storms rolling through Fort Scott Tuesday morning, a large number of Fort Scott residents as well as visitors attended the opening ceremony for the new location of the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes located on Main Street.
“This is a joyous day and event for the Lowell Milken Center,” Executive Director Norm Conard said, expressing appreciation to a number of people who participated in the completion of the project, including city leaders, LMC employees, construction team members as well as the students and teachers who completed the projects on exhibit.
Speakers during the ceremony included Fort Scott Director of Economic Development Heather Smith, Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson, LMC Fellow Dyane Smokorowski, Unsung Hero Ken Reinhardt and founder Lowell Milken.
Milken said he has traveled around the nation and even internationally to speak about the center, its exhibits and the project-based learning it encourages, which has influenced about one million participating students and reached about 80 countries. While meeting with so many people, Milken said the question most frequently asked concerns the decision to have the center located in Fort Scott, Kan.
“I believe that this center could only have been born out of a community that values education, diversity and history,” Milken said, saying the city has welcomed the center and its vision gladly.
Watson said the rich values of Southeast Kansas also provide a perfect backdrop for the center that encourages the development of students’ character, civic engagement, their own conscientiousness and importance of giving back to the community.
Kansas teacher Smokorowski said the center is an ideal place for teachers, superintendents and students to visit in order to learn and be inspired by the lives of Unsung Heroes, adding she cannot wait to see how it impacts students.
Smith said after the downtown fire in 2005, she could not think of a better organization to rise from those ashes than the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. Smith said Fort Scott can be proud to be the home of the center, which she said is much more than bricks and mortar.
“Who are the real unsung heroes?” Reinhardt asked during the ceremony, saying he believes the students bringing him and other heroes out from anonymity deserve the title as well.
Milken said he believes history is never a done deal, as is evident by the LMC exhibits that portray the lives of people whose positive and widespread impacts were overlooked by history books.
“It’s sad to say that in an age of instant gratification and self-absorption, the concept of hero is often turned on its head,” Milken said, saying fame has become the definition of heroism. “This is the wrong message for our young people, in fact, for all citizens. Instead, the message we want to convey is that real heroes tower and guide. They are the North Star that today’s youth can look up to. But their stories need to be discovered and told.”
Visitors to the new center and its Hall of Unsung Heroes can now witness some of those examples of heroism through the interactive exhibits.