Columbus like any other Heartland city has its living heroes, people whose service, accomplishments, contributions or celebrity command adoration that borders on reverence. Two of them were center stage at Wednesday events separated by a couple hours and one city block.
At the Statehouse in Columbus, Members of the central Ohio delegation of the Ohio House of Representatives honored master zookeeper Jack Hanna for his 35 years of service to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
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Hanna became the executive director of the Columbus Zoo in 1978 and worked over the years to educate people about animals and habitat conservation. He gained notoriety through many appearances talk and news shows, hosted television programs, authored several books, and served the community and environment in numerous capacities, the Ohio House said.
State Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) told Hanna, who was in full Zoo attire including his signature bush hat, how his career had become a "remarkably bright light for central Ohio and our entire state." Duffey, the sponsor of the bill that created JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich's private nonprofit state jobs group, linked Hanna's work to give Ohio an identity nationally and internationally to his building and branding of the Columbus Zoo.
Another Columbus-area legislator to honor Hanna was State Rep. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard). She told the Ohio House about the day in 2009 when she and daughters witnessed the birth of Beco, the baby elephant. She used that experience to highlight the educational value of Hanna's work in animal husbandry and environmental conservation, and the kind of fun that can only happen at the Columbus Zoo.
Hanna's appearances on Late Night with David Letterman are memorable, as are his efforts to grow Columbus Zoo's reputation from local to national and beyond. "This is not only a feather in the cap for central Ohioans, but for all of Ohio. Thank you, Jack, for your commitment to the treasure we have in central Ohio that has brought so much joy to so many over the years," Rep. Kunze said.
State Rep. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) recognized Hanna for his vision, passion and dedication.
A few hours later and one block south of the Statehouse, the first ever off-course President's Cup opening ceremony featured another Jack that people from Central Ohio adore and people worldwide who follow the game of golf love.
Enter the Golden Bear
Jack Nicklaus, dubbed the Golden Bear in honor of his high school mascot, was recognized as the greatest of golfers by Gov. Kasich, who spoke at Wednesday night's opening ceremonies for the President's Cup, developed to give the world's best non-European players an opportunity to compete in international team match-play competition. It's a biennial event played in non-Ryder Cup years and the U.S. holds a 7-1-1 record in The Presidents Cup.
Opening Ceremony included performances by The Ohio State University Marching Band, as well as the Columbus-based Harmony Project. Emceed by Dan Hicks of NBC Sports, Opening Ceremony featured U.S. Team Captain Fred Couples and International Team Captain Nick Price and their teams, as well as speeches from World Golf Hall of Famer Jack Nicklaus; PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem; and a video message from U.S. President Barack Obama, honorary chairman of The Presidents Cup 2013.
As host to Ohio for the many international players, wives, girlfriends and spectators in downtown Columbus tonight, Gov. John Kasich's theme in his short introductory remarks to Nicklaus focused on international competition in sports as a way to breakdown barriers in order to enable forgiveness and hope.
Kasich, elected in 2010 and running for re-election next year, didn't need to remind the mostly hometown Columbus audience of Jesse Owens or what he did in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, then under control of the Third Reich and its leader Adolph Hitler.
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The story of Owens, an African-American who attended OSU and won four gold medals as Hitler looked on, was followed by a mention of Nelson Mandela, who went from prison to being elected the first black leader of South Africa following the collapse of apartheid, and the events surrounding the South African rugby team winning the world championship. Kasich said it "changed apartheid, about black and white and it showed forgiveness and hope."
"At the end of the day we really all are one," Kasich said to a crowd of about 1,000 VIP guests and thousands more spread across Columbus Commons, a downtown green space and park that has attracted new downtown living options.
The first day of play tomorrow will feature teaming Americans Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar against the International duo of Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman in one of the six Four-Ball matches that will be played in Thursday's Presidents Cup opening, according to PGATOUR.COM staff.
In July, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem recognized Nicklaus’ commitment and connection to The Presidents Cup with the announcement that the course Nicklaus designed in Incheon, Korea, will in 2015 host the event for its first foray into Asia.
Opening Ceremonies included fireworks and a special performance by American country-music group Rascal Flatts, made more special because two of its three members hail from Columbus.
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