Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2019

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Jon Ralston:

Home means Nevada to me

I always thought it was fitting that Nevada Day fell on Halloween because so many people here wear masks.

So many folks have moved to Nevada with something to hide — the Land of Second Chances has provided an escape for immigrants who outnumber the natives. Do you know a born and bred Nevadan?

I am not a native, but I recently celebrated my 27th anniversary in the state, meaning I have spent more than half of my life here. I have seen plenty of tricks and too few treats, but on the eve of the state’s 147th birthday, I can honestly say: Home Means Nevada to me.

Home Means Nevada to me because I can remember when Shelley Berkley was a regent, Harry Reid was a congressman and Oscar Goodman was defending innocent men — and I can honestly say none have changed very much since their earlier incarnations.

Home Means Nevada to me because I can remember when guys named Marvin Sedway, Joe Dini, Bill Raggio, Jim Gibson, Bob Sader and Lou Bergevin ran Carson City — and I long for those days when vision trumped partisanship, when courage was not scarce and when a deal was a deal.

Home Means Nevada to me because I have come to learn that in a state built this century by the most sexist of industries, women have thrived and led in politics. I remember when Sue Wagner, who might have been the state’s first female governor, or Barbara Buckley, who might have been the second, wielded capital power or when the rising stars of Nevada politics were named Del Papa, Jones and Titus, all of whom could have been contenders for the same job. (I have also been honored to cross paths with private sector women who could have held their own with XYs anywhere, from Elaine Wynn to Heather Murren to Jenna Morton to the marvelous, much-missed Claudine Williams.)

Home Means Nevada to me because I have had the privilege to know so many wonderful journalists who have mentored me and encouraged me, from Bob Stoldal to Brendan Riley to Cy Ryan to the man who made me a Nevadan, Charlie Zobell. Nevada has been known as a journalistic wasteland but across this state, in this brave new world of web domination, there are folks doing great work every day (I hope they stay).

Home Means Nevada to me because when I hear or read of a slight directed our way, I viscerally want to do what Montresor visited on Fortunato to defend my state against injustices, large and small, real and imagined – that’s why I found it so hard to fathom when state Republicans did not feel their hearts swell with Nevada Pride when the effete New Englanders sought to embarrass them and the national GOP leaders did what so many extra-Nevada folks do, which is pat them on the head and tell them to behave.

Home Means Nevada to me because I reflexively wince when I hear people pronounce the name of the state incorrectly (that means you, Steve Wynn). I still believe presidential candidates who can’t pass that test should be barred from the ballot.

Home Means Nevada to me because I have been lucky enough to have covered five governors of varying abilities and gotten to know almost all of them fairly well — and while all of them felt my criticism, scathing and otherwise, almost all of them were men I came to admire and respect and I came to believe they had an abiding love of this state.

Home Means Nevada to Me because although no one has been more critical of an all-too-frequent lack of leadership where vision is blinded by expediency and cowardice, of an incestuous political system where the names change too little and everyone sleeps in the same bed, of an imbued culture that puts too little value on education, progress and, well, culture, my cynicism never lapses into despair — I enter every odd-numbered year full of hope that the coming Legislature will debate broader issues and discuss far-reaching solutions rather than cutting and running after 120 days. (This may be the definition of insanity, but so be it.)

Home Means Nevada to me because I came here wearing the mask of an East Coaster looking for a second chance after some medical problems, believing I would be here for two years, knowing the world of politics had little to offer me and insisting I would never lower myself to do television — and 27 years later, I could not be happier to have been wrong on all counts.

Home Means Nevada to me most of all because The Teen is a native Nevadan, born and raised and ready to drive, and she means everything to me — no mask could ever hide that.

Happy Birthday, Nevada.

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