Thank you Mr. Bouslog and Henry County Council for allowing me to come today to present an award, on behalf of the State of Indiana, to a man who cannot travel outside of his home, but is very deserving of this honor.
Today, the community of New Castle-Henry County continues to build a bridge, no matter how tardy, to honor a creative mind, an iconic artist, and a noble son.
Born on September 13, 1928, Robert Clark would quickly be taken from his birthplace of New Castle, Indiana. But throughout his extraordinary life, he continued to embody our community’s core values, like heritage and resilience.
New Castle-Henry County undoubtedly holds its heritage close. From the echos of basketball gymnasiums, to the hallways of the birthplace of another great innovator, Wilbur Wright. From the downtown streets of incredible buildings, including the home of Civil War General William Groce, to the pages of Ross Lockridge, Jr.’s great novel, Raintree County. Robert Indiana never forgot who he was or where he came from as he worked toward THE AMERICAN DREAM. This is evident in his works as he recounted his family’s heritage, included symbols of his youth, and referenced his ambitious journey as one of the world’s most notorious artists.
Resilience. Growing up in a difficult time in our country, Robert Indiana’s family, like so many today, faced hardships. His father lost his job. He was very ill as an adolescent. His family was torn apart through divorce. He lived in 21 different homes before he was 17 years old, which is something unfortunately our youth today can relate to. However, he has experienced many moments of HOPE. His first grade teacher in Mooresville, Indiana encouraged him to become an artist. He graduated as valedictorian of Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis, where he focused on his art classes. He surrounded himself with encouraging artists who were on similar journeys. Just as our community has done time and time again, Robert Indiana has pushed forward with resilience in the face of adversity.
Mr. Indiana now lives 1,074 miles away on Vinalhaven, Maine, where he has lived since November of 1976. However, where you’re born is a significant part of your journey, where you breathe in that first breath of life. We are fortunate to share that special connection with Robert Indiana, a man who set out to leave his mark on the world. It is imperative that we honor him here in his “long ago hometown” and continue to grow his legacy. That legacy includes not only his iconic works of art, but also his very embodiment of heritage and resilience.
The Sagamore of the Wabash is an award given to significant individuals who have contributed greatly to Hoosier heritage. Its recipients include astronauts, entertainers, ambassadors, politicians, and athletes. Robert Indiana, an art icon who changed his name to reflect, remember, and embrace his Hoosier heritage, is well-deserving of this award.
Know All Men by These Presents:
Whereas, the Greatness of the Sons of Indiana derives, in part, from qualities possessed by the noble Chieftains of the Indian Tribes which once roamed its domain; and
Whereas, it has been the immemorial custom of the State of Indiana to attract to its support those who have exhibited such qualities; and
Whereas, there has endeared himself to the Citizens of Indiana, one ROBERT INDIANA distinguished by his Humanity in Living, his Loyalty in Friendship, his Wisdom in Council, and his Inspiration in Leadership:
Now, Therefore, recognizing his greatness and desiring to avail myself of his counsel, I do hereby appoint him a Chieftain upon my Staff with the rank and title of
SAGAMORE of the WABASH
You can watch video of the presentation, from the historic Henry County Courthouse (New Castle, Indiana), by clicking here.