Wicker Commemorates Mississippi’s Bicentennial

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2017

By Roger Wicker

During this time of the year mistletoe is associated with Christmas cheer, and the plant is often used as part of the holiday decorations in many homes over the United States.

A few weeks ago, my wife, Gayle, had an idea about how we should decorate the Christmas tree in my Senate office.  She suggested that we should ask a Mississippi school if their students would be willing to create ornaments celebrating our state and its bicentennial.  Like some of the ornaments you might have on your Christmas tree at home, these would be handmade, special, and unique.

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The ornament idea was pitched to Gulfport High School, and the administration, faculty, and students have followed up beyond all expectations.  Students and faculty in multiple academic departments worked collaboratively, brainstorming, designing, planning, and producing an impressive collection of wood, acrylic, ceramic, and decoupage ornaments.

There are ornaments celebrating Mississippi authors, such as Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner.  There are also ornaments that pay tribute to celebrities like Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Jim Henson.  There are even ornaments featuring our state’s wildlife, agricultural commodities, and universities, as well as a few that reflect our vibrant Gulf Coast.

The ornaments showcase the artistic and technical skills of the students at Gulfport High School, which has reorganized its educational curriculum in recent years and just finished a major, multimillion-dollar renovation.  Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and are encouraged to learn critical vocational skills through the school’s career-oriented Academic Institutes.  The ornament project was truly interdisciplinary, engaging students studying arts and ceramics, construction technology, and engineering.  It also encompassed nontraditional materials and processes, with engineering students using a 3-D printer to create the treetop star.

Mississippi’s bicentennial on December 10 is an important moment for our state.  Although the history of this land and its inhabitants stretches far beyond our 200 years of statehood, our ancestors made a pivotal decision in 1817 to form a constitution and join America’s great democratic experiment as the 20th state. We became part of a growing nation that would go on to be the greatest the world has ever seen.

This 200-year milestone is made even more special by the much-anticipated grand opening of 2 Mississippi Museums in Jackson.  Sitting side by side and covering some 200,000 square feet in our capital city, the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will offer visitors and Mississippians alike an engaging way to learn about our state’s dynamic past and the many notable people who have called it home.  In the Museum of Mississippi History, visitors will be able to see relics that trace back thousands of years. 

In the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, visitors will get a powerful, in-depth look at Mississippi’s story from 1945 to 1976, when our state was at the center of the nationwide struggle for equality and justice.

I am grateful to have participated in bicentennial celebrations across our state throughout this year, including in my native Pontotoc.  Mississippi is my home and the home of my children and grandchildren.  It is a place for families, and I hope that this will shine through as generations of Mississippians gather to commemorate this momentous occasion for our state.