“I Come From a Country That Raises Corn and Cotton”
Kevin Horrigan confirms my suspicion that the idea for a state dog was thought up by some schoolchildren. Several of Missouri’s symbols had their start as class projects, and the Newfoundland proposal continues that trend.
Besides serving as convenient research topics for fourth graders, state symbols appeal to people in general because of the shared experiences they represent. Politicians have known this for a while. Congressman William D. Vandiver mentioned some features of the state to elicit listeners’ sympathy in his famous speech:
I come from a country that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats; and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.
Vandiver apparently thought that people would associate those things with the state back in 1899. Clearly, such associations change over time. Cotton is no longer the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Missouri, and our state flower is the white hawthorn, not the cocklebur. Legislators might be more cautious about approving new symbols if they considered how obsolete the symbols may become. Just as no one would call out the cocklebur in a speech today, future fourth graders may laugh about our state invertebrate or dessert.