U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Senator Chuck Grassley were among the many dignitaries to visit Traer on Saturday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Traer Historical Musuem.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was also on hand to speak at the museum's grand opening of the James "Tama Jim" Wilson exhibit, which honors the local pioneer with a collection of artifacts and information.
Wilson, who called the Traer area home for much of his adult life, was the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1897 to 1913, a tenure that spanned three presidents. The exhibit displays interesting facts, photos and items from Wilson's life.
Senator Chuck Grassley shares a laugh with Christy Wicks, of the Traer Historical Museum, while touring the new James 'Tama Jim' Wilson exhibit.
Tom Wicks, a member of the board, spoke about the important contributions of the family and community members who made the exhibit possible. Despite the sad news of board secretary Jeannine Smentek's passing earlier in the week, the day was one of celebration for a new chapter in the museum's history.
Before the ribbon-cutting, the dignitaries spoke about the importance of Tama Jim and how the choices he made as Secretary of Agriculture continue to affect the nation positively today.
"I wonder if a 16-year old boy who came from Scotland to Connecticut knew where he would end up," Senator Grassley said. "Jim Wilson had a very diversified life and contributed much to Iowa and the nation."
Wilson's experience and commitment also provided a much-needed boost to rural interests, which remain an important issue today.
"I think the greatest thing Tama Jim did was to underscore the importance of agriculture to our country," Secretary Vilsack said. "I think it's important to explain to people outside of rural America what rural America does for them, and what people in towns like Traer do for the rest of America every single day."
Vilsack also took the opportunity to speak about some of the nation's most pressing issues as they relate to Tama Jim's story.
"I happen to be an orphan, so I really don't know what my heritage is," Vilsack said. "But I do know this: I'm an American. I know somewhere in my past and somewhere in the past of every single person here today, there is a story of someone who made the sacrifice and the risk to come to this great country with a dream and a hope and a belief."
"The immigration story needs to continue to be replayed in this country year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, because it is what has made this country great," Vilsack said. "Certainly it can be said about Tama Jim Wilson as he had that hope, he had that belief, and he had that dream."
The struggle of representatives in Washington to come together on the passage of a new Farm Bill is something that has frustrated Americans in recent months, and Vilsack addressed the issue to an agriculturally-minded crowd while also stressing the bill as a benefit to all.
"A farm bill is not just about farm country, it isn't just about the 2.3 million people who farm, and it's not just about the folks who produce our food and our energy and our water-it's about every single American," Vilsack said. "It's a jobs bill, it's a trade bill, it's a research bill, it's an environment bill, it's a small business and entrepreneurship bill," Vilsack said. "That's why it's important and necessary for us to get the work done to provide certainty about what those programs are going to be for the next five years, and to continue to build on that foundation that Tama Jim so well produced."
The Wilson exhibit adds to an already substantial array of improvements at the museum, which has been working hard in recent years to update both the look and feel of the facility.
Funding for the project was provided by the Black Hawk County Gaming Association, Tama County Community Foundation and many private donors.
For more information on the museum and their continuing improvements, how to donate or ways to get involved, contact a board member in your community, call 478-2346 or stop on by at 514 Second Street.