Originally, I sat down to write this piece as a recap of everything that happened at the State Department meetings in Lincoln and Atkinson. But, if you read any of the articles from media outlets like the Omaha World Herald, Norfolk Daily News, Lincoln Journal Star, Hastings Tribune, LA Times, The Globe and Mail, or NY Times’ Editorial Page you already know what’s been happening.

In short, we had thousands of Nebraskans (roughly 1,000 at each meeting) come out to demand the State Department deny the Keystone XL permit. Some want the pipeline rerouted, others simply don’t want it at all. But we stood united and remained peaceful when people were bused in from out of state to parrot TransCanada’s talking points of jobs (which are overblown) and energy independence (which is a myth).

So instead of giving a meeting recap, I want to focus on the people who have become the heart of this fight. The people who had the courage and passion to show up to these meetings, often waiting hours just to speak for three minutes. 

These fellow Nebraskans are the reason we are pipeline fighters and Ogallala Aquifer lovers:

For Randy Thompson, the former linebacker with sharp wit and heart of gold who continually demands more action from our elected officials. Randy is the grandfather I always wanted but never really had. His humor and warmth always touch me. I do not pity or envy any TransCanada agent or elected official who incurs his just anger as he defends his family’s land and legacy.

For Cindy Myers, who spoke up even though the pipeline isn’t running through her property. I can never get enough fresh Ogallala Aquifer from her kitchen tap. She has been a real mover and shaker in the Sandhills which was never more apparent than when her phone kept ringing the morning of the Atkinson hearing with neighbors wanting details. Cindy’s tenacity keeps me going when I get worn out.

For Susan Luebbe, whom I accompanied on her first trip out to Washington, DC to lobby the State Department and members of Congress. Susan’s family land is in the path of the pipeline. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a bully, especially when they can outspend you a million to one. But Susan has been strong and continues to speak out about TransCanada’s appalling tactics and harassment.

For Teri Taylor, who has the heart of the Sandhills. I’ve never been able to edit down the 30-minute video interview I did with Teri in January because everything she said moved me. Her love of the land and her family and her ability to explain how the two are inextricably connected has fostered my love for the Sandhills.

For Tom Genung, who sat near me in front of the White House, waiting patiently to be arrested. The pipeline would cross his mother-in-law’s land. Tom is always stopping by the Bold office asking how he can help, collecting more materials to distribute. Whenever I fret about not having enough hours in the day, I remember all the extra time Tom puts in fighting for the cause.

For Jane Wilson, who didn’t hesitate to pack up activists into her car and drive them from Omaha to Atkinson for the State Department meeting. It was Jane who came up with the idea of buying bus benches (and she raised all the money from friends) across Omaha to spread the word about the pipeline fight. She shows that just because you live in the city, doesn’t mean you care any less about protecting the Aquifer and the Sandhills.

For you, reading this. Maybe this is your first time visiting our blog or maybe it’s the hundredth. Either way, you are the reason we can stop this pipeline and protect our water. The fact that you are taking the time out of your day to learn more about this issue motivates me. You care enough, for whatever reason, to read this. I write this blog for you in hopes that my words can somehow continue to inspire you to pass the message on for action.

There were plenty of things that went wrong at the State Department meetings. Time that should have gone first to landowners and citizens went to people who had been bused in or worse, took the number of someone else who had signed in early for them (I’m looking at you TransCanada execs and Mike Friend of Americans for Prosperity). The fact that Cardno-Entrix is running these meetings is also highly disturbing.

But there were also plenty of things that went right. We had massive turnout. Anti-pipeline speakers were eloquent, educated, and diverse. Many were patient when it was easy to get riled up and kept calm when provoked. We easily had 75% of the testimony.

The enthusiasm, courage, strength and spirit that I have seen from my fellow Nebraskans is something rare and precious. We at Bold will keep doing our best to serve you, the pipeline fighters and Sandhills lovers.