•August 23, 2017•
By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist
I gave a talk this past week about the future of rural Illinois to a gathering of presidents of Illinois community foundations.
Never above getting a twofer out of a talk, I penned this column. I write because I believe rural communities have contributed much to the development of America and of Americans.
I think presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan and Carter reached the pinnacle of public life in good part because they learned in their small towns that we’re all in this together, and that working together makes sense.
After decades away, I moved back a few years ago to my rural hometown of Toulon in central Illinois (pop. 1,300, if you include the nursing home, in Stark County, pop. 5,900). I found more vitality than I expected, as parents and grandparents rally round the schools and their young’uns.
Yet the population and economic decline of rural Illinois has been relentless over the decades. For example, in 1890 my farmland county of Stark had twice as many people as today!
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