Lynne Cheney recognized as 2012 Citizen of the West
A woman of many accomplishments, Lynne Cheney is no stranger to the spotlight. Bestselling author, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, historian and Second Lady of the United States are all titles that she has held. However, her favorite is the one given to her by her 4-year-old granddaughter Elizabeth: Grandmother of the United States.
Cheney was honored on January 9, as the 2012 Citizen of the West, at the National Western Stock Show. The event was held at the Event Center, which is the first year the event has been held at this venue. It had previously been held at downtown hotels.
Surrounded by friends and family, Cheney received the award after being selected by a committee of community leaders. The Citizen of the West is “An annual award given to individuals who embody the spirit and determination of the western pioneer, and who are committed to perpetuating the West’s agricultural heritage and ideals,” according to the National Western Stock Show.
“I think you can very much see the West in my mom and in the kind of person she is,” said her daughter Liz Cheney.
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“I think of myself as a westerner through and through. James Madison had this great dream of the whole country full of people who tilled the soil and led these hard working, virtuous lives and it’s just part of my dream. I think it’s part of everyone’s dream,” said Lynne Cheney.
Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyo., where she attended Natrona County High School. It was in 1955 where she met her husband, former Vice President Dick Cheney. He was honored at the Citizen of the West in 1993.
After high school, Cheney attended college at Colorado College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts with highest honors. She then attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she received a Master’s of Arts degree. After that, Cheney and her husband traveled to Madison, Wisc., to pursue PhDs.
Cheney then earned her PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 19th century British literature. Cheney has always had a passion for history, and truly believes in the history of the West.
“I am a historian, so I always think of things in historical terms. That’s the way we started as a country, we were an agricultural nation. All of my ancestors worked the land. It has such a proud tradition and heritage that it’s a pleasure for me to honor that and feel a little bit of a part of it,” she said.
Cheney served as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, from 1986 to 1993. In 1995, she founded the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
She is also a senior fellow in education and culture for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C. She also serves as a director for Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
She served at the cost-host of CNN’s Sunday edition of Crossfire, from 1995-1998. She has been on the board of directors for many organizations, including American Express Mutual Funds, Lockheed Martin Corporation and Union Pacific Resources.
Cheney is also a best selling author, and has penned 14 books. She has six best-selling history books for children and families. Her first book, released in 2002, was titled “America: A Patriotic Primer.” Her most recent was published in 2008, and was titled “We the People: The Story of Our Constitution.” Through the sale of her books, she has been able to donate over a million dollars to charity.
Cheney has also established the James Madison Book Award, which awards $10,000 to an author of a book that “best represents excellence in bringing knowledge and understanding of American history to the next generation.” according to Cheney. The award was established in April of 2003.
She is currently working on a book called “Founding Genius,” a biography of James Madison. She is a very driven person, and strives to for excellence. She leads through example.
“My mother isn’t someone who wanted to be a leader, she just is one” said her daughter, Mary.
Her husband, former Vice President Dick Cheney, added, “She is remarkably strong. When she decides to wants to do something, she steps right in and things happen.”
Her drive is what has helped her manage being a wife, mother, grandmother and career woman. “I don’t need a lot of motivation. I think one of the inheritance I have is hard work,” Cheney said.
Master of Ceremonies and lifelong friend Maggie Scarlett had nothing but admiration for Cheney. “You are an amazing woman, a wonderful grandmother, and I can think of no one better suited to carry the name for the National Western Stock Show as their Citizen of the West, as Lynne Vincent Cheney,” she said.
Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson also spoke kindly of Cheney. “She’s a spirited, glorious, intelligent, wise, warm, witty woman, and she deserves every accolade you could present her with,” he said. He is a longtime friend of the Cheney family and the National Western’s Citizen of the West in 1990.
The event drew nearly 800 people. The event is held to raise money for the National Western Scholarship Trust. Each year, 74 students are awarded scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $6,000.
Three students, who are attending Colorado State University, had the privilege of attending and helping with the event. Miranda Sis, a graduate student studying beef management systems from McCook, Neb., is grateful for the money she received.
“Receiving the beef industry leadership scholarship has allowed me to focus on my schoolwork and project and not worry about having to pay for my tuition,” she said.
Fellow graduate student Stacy Chilott of Chandler, Ariz., is pursuing a Master’s of Agriculture in Integrated Resource Management. “This scholarship has helped me to not have a lot of debt when I graduate,” she said.
Undergraduate Erin Karney of Las Animas, Colo., is finishing her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and Agricultural Business. “This scholarship allows me to pursue different avenues of agriculture,” she said.
In addition to celebrating the Citizen of the West and the scholarship students, the evening was also about celebrating agriculture. Governor Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado, spoke about the importance of agriculture during the banquet.
He said, “I want to take two seconds to talk about the importance of agriculture. We’ve recognized the importance of agriculture to lead us out of this recession. That agriculture in this country has had a trade surplus for 50 years. No other industry can say that.”
He continued, “Ag in Colorado is more than just crops and livestock. It is a way of life. It’s a significant engine for entrepreneurship in the West.”
Governor Mead, the governor of Wyoming, echoed Hickenloopers words. “It means so much that we continue to celebrate and recognize the value of agriculture in our country. I think for too long people have failed to recognize the value of ag, and they don’t have an appreciation where food comes from. Just for an announcement, food doesn’t come actually from the grocery store. It comes from producers.”
He added, “Ag provides more than food. It provides a quality of life, it provides our beautiful open spaces, it protects our water, it enriches our wildlife, it enriches our great Western experience.”
The importance of agriculture and the West is also what Cheney stands for. Mead said, “Lynne Cheney is from Wyoming. But more importantly is where she is from is what she stands for. Lynne Cheney is for Wyoming, Lynne Cheney is for America, Lynne Cheney is for the West. And her life, and work in her life, has done a great deal to support all of that: Wyoming, the West and America.”
Cheney accepted the traditional branding iron and Stetson hat award from National Western Stock Show president Paul Andrews, before giving her acceptance speech. “I feel so fortunate to have grown up in the West,” Cheney said.
Lynne Cheney is a true citizen of Wyoming, of agriculture, and of the West.
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