LINCOLN — The people have spoken, and “the good life” has been saved.
State tourism officials said Thursday that Nebraskans don't need to worry — they aren't seeking the removal of the slogan, “Nebraska ... the good life,” from state highway signs.
The admission comes a day after a storm erupted on Facebook, Twitter and talk radio over a suggestion by one official that maybe it was time to retire the old “good life” tag line in the process of picking a new state slogan for tourism marketing.
A press release to clarify that arrived Thursday.
“We realize that 'the good life' slogan seen on many signs entering the state has been endeared by the state's citizens since the 1970s,” said Kathy McKillip, the head of the Nebraska Tourism Commission.
“We recognize that there is affection for the term and want the public to understand that our efforts are not specifically about taking away a slogan or symbol but creating a brand for state tourism that makes us a more marketable destination,” she added.
The Tourism Commission is wrapping up a statewide study to find out what people feel is distinctive about Nebraska. That research will be used to develop a new state slogan and symbol for tourism marketing, which is expected to be revealed this spring.
As part of that effort, a bill was introduced in the Legislature to remove the “official” but hardly used state motto from the statute books, “Welcome to NEBRASKAland: where the West begins,” which was adopted in 1963.
State Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, who sponsored the bill, said his only intent was to remove an “obsolete” slogan and empower the Tourism Commission to create a new one.
“There's no need to change those signs,” said Mello.
“The good life” was an official state slogan at one time, though it was never etched into state law.
It was adopted in 1971 at the instruction of then-Gov. Jim Exon, who wanted to replace a tourism tag line then in use, “Unwind in Nebraska,” according to Stan Matzke, who was head of the state's Department of Economic Development.
Matzke said the “good life” slogan came out of a discussion with one of his colleagues, John Rosenow, now the head of the Arbor Day Foundation, and J. Greg Smith, a public relations consultant who later helped develop the Archway monument in Kearney.
“We said that Nebraska is a great place to live, and someone said, 'Nebraska is the good life,' ” Matzke said. “And Greg said, 'That's it.' ”
Matzke, who now lives in Bennet, Neb., said he had no idea there was an official motto in state law books, but he knows that “the good life” has endured, unlike several other state slogans.
“People can identify with it,” he said.