Have you read this yet?
Coal mines are shutting down left and right, the state of the economy is grim, and the country is involved in a controversial war.
While this may sound like a present description of circumstances, it is actually what those in this area were living through when U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy made his “poverty tour” 45 years ago through Southeastern Kentucky.
In February 1968, Kennedy spent two days and travelled 200 miles touring cities in the region, experiencing what poverty was really like in this area so he could better understand how to fix what was wrong. While in Prestonsburg, Kennedy spoke on camera about what he had seen.
“There is no real hope for the future amongst many of these people who work hard in the coal mines, and now that the coal mines shut down, they have no place to go,” Kennedy said. “There’s no hope for the future, there’s no industry moving in. The men are trained in government programs and there’s no jobs at the end of the training program because of the cutbacks and because of the demands on our federal budget in Washington and the war in Vietnam.”
“Appalachia overall has improved, Central Appalachia has improved much less, and then, obviously if you look in Eastern Kentucky we’re a big red dot on that map of economic distress,” Maxson explained. “So, now, absolute living standards have improved [in Appalachia], but the gap between East Kentucky and the rest of the country just hasn’t closed that much.”
While in Prestonsburg 45 years ago, the late Sen. Kennedy finished his film interview with a sentiment that seems to align with Maxson’s point of view.
“It seems to me that this country is as wealthy as we are, that this is an intolerable condition. It reflects on all of us,” Kennedy said. “We can do things all over the rest of the world, but I think we should do something for our people here in our own country.”
Go read it all.
Very little has changed in 45 years for Eastern Kentucky. You already know why: Frankfort and the good old boy culture of corruption that persists to this day.
We need to start by draining that swamp. Until that occurs, Eastern Kentucky will remain in a constant state of despair, ever so delicately clinging to existence, hanging from the threads of its fragile mailbox economy.