Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
American Press, Lake Charles, La., on showing more pride in state:
A recent survey by Louisiana Gannet newspapers shows that while most Louisianans have a positive perception of their state, they are concerned about the negative feedback they get from people in other states.
One way the people of Louisiana can help turn that negative perception around, according to Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, head of the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, is by speaking positively about it to visitors.
Dardenne said the department is putting Louisiana's best foot forward. But he said it comes down to the people in Louisiana, as the impact they have on visitors is priceless.
"Stories are the best souvenir," Dardenne said. "There ought to be 4.5 million ambassadors for Louisiana. All of us should be marketing."
While Louisiana is a poor state in regard to per capita income, that doesn't mean it is a bad state to live in or visit. In fact, Louisiana is among the richest states in natural resources, world-class tourist attractions, a unique culture, ecology, a paradise for outdoor sports, a fascinating history second to none and food that has become a favorite among people worldwide.
While slightly more than 70 percent of respondents to an opt-in survey said they feel positively about living in Louisiana, several answers in the survey referred to "negativism" about the state from those on the outside looking in as well as in-state residents.
The Mood of Louisiana survey was made available to the print, digital and social media audiences of The Town Talk in Alexandria, The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, The Daily World in Opelousas, The Times in Shreveport and The News-Star in Monroe in early December. Five hundred people participated in the survey.
Overcoming negative perceptions is something every state deals with, Dardenne said.
"Every state has got its challenges, and every state has its assets," he said. "And I think our assets far outweigh our negatives."
And one of the easiest ways for Louisianans to show state pride is to buy a state flag and fly it outside their homes and businesses, and don't be shy about bragging about our unique and beloved state.
The News-Star, Monroe, La., on making international students feel at home at ULM:
Imagine being 18 years old and beginning college on a campus halfway around the world from your parents, friends and home.
You may have a fragile grasp of the language but are unfamiliar with the food, customs and culture of your new home, country and most of your classmates.
While relishing the magnificent opportunity, it can also bring a lonely transition that affects your initial quality of life and chances at success.
Eric Liew, a University of Louisiana at Monroe graduate, felt all of those things as an international student from Malaysia 30 years ago.
Today Liew owns and operates the international AOSS Medical Supply company headquartered in the Monroe Air Industrial Park.
He not only adopted Monroe as his hometown and the United States as his country but also has created hundreds of jobs here.
But he never forgot those first days at ULM, and this month he and his family pledged $1 million to establish an international student center at ULM to provide a family setting for future students.
ULM President Nick Bruno said the gift will also help the university with its recruitment of international students. Today, ULM is home to about 450 international students but the number was much larger when Liew attended ULM.
"This is the fulfillment of a dream and goal we've had at the university for some years to provide a facility for our international students that would be welcoming and allow the interaction of both the international students and our domestic native students on a daily basis," Bruno said.
Other local business leaders are also pledging support.
Interstate Dodge owner John Klagholz agreed to donate a vehicle to provide international students transportation for personal needs, while Progressive Bank plans to provide banking assistance to new international students.
We appreciate Liew's investment, which will help current and future international students assimilate and may convince more of them to stay, as he did, and find their American dream in northeastern Louisiana.
The Daily Star, Hammond, La., on hunger directly relates to health:
If this nation wants to cut health care costs, cutting nutrition is not the right direction.
According to reports from the Associated Press, research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts last year estimated that a cut of $2 billion a year in food stamps could trigger an increase of $15 billion in medical costs for diabetes over the next decade. Other research shows children from food-insecure families are 30 percent more likely to have been hospitalized for a range of illnesses. The nation's medical community says cutting food aid could backfire through higher Medicaid and Medicare costs in the future.
Congress is working on a compromise farm bill that is expected to cut at least $800 million a year to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which feeds 1 in 7 Americans and costs almost $80 billion a year. After the 2009 temporary benefit expired in November, a family of four receiving food stamps is now getting $36 less a month. The average household benefit is around $270. About half of food stamp recipients are children, and 10 percent are elderly.
Dr. Thomas McInerny, past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has said too often, poor families buy cheap, high-calorie junk food because it's filling, but it lacks nutrients needed for proper child development. The two main consequences are later-in-life diabetes and iron deficiency that, especially in the first three years of life, can damage a developing brain so that children have trouble learning in school.
"The children may not look malnourished the way children in Third World countries look," he said, "but they are malnourished."
The SNAP program is an important safety net for American children and the elderly. Instead of denying them nutrition, the overriding goals should be to help people get the education and skills they need to get back on their feet so they can provide for themselves and their families.