Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Rose, Bud, Thorn

Rose, Bud, Thorn

by Ashley Beard Fosnow, Executive Director, Missouri Humanities

Sara Wilson, a friend and leader in the humanities, wrote a fascinating series on Facebook last month dedicated to floriography- the language of flowers. She emphasized that the rose can symbolize some of the strongest human emotions. A white rose might symbolize purity. An orange rose can remind us of passion or admiration. In Greek Mythology, the first red roses were said to have sprung from Adonis’ blood as he died in Aphrodite’s arms, which is one of the many reasons red roses are linked to romantic love and displayed at funerals, reminding mourners that epic love transcends death.

You are probably familiar with the popular design-thinking activity, “Rose, Bud, Thorn.” At our last staff meeting of the year, I asked the Missouri Humanities team to reflect on 2023 and highlight a success (rose), a new or emerging idea to develop in the coming year (bud), and a challenge (thorn) they experienced as leaders in the humanities. Several staff members recalled doing this exercise in Boy Scouts and theatre class. 

For inspiration, I kicked off the “Rose, Bud, Thorn” activity with excerpts about roses from poems by famous Missourians, T.S. Eliot, and Langston Hughes. The rose garden setting in Burnt Norton[1] creates a longing for a peaceful place of memory laced with regret for all of life’s missed opportunities. Roses often symbolize love, new life, and the future. We yearn for meaning and beauty. According to Hughes, we hope for color in our futures and beauty even in death. In his poem, Red Roses[2], the poet longs for spring, a season of transformation. In both Christian and pagan traditions, the rose is closely related to the idea of resurrection and rebirth.     

In compiling a list, the staff identified some of the amazing “roses” and “buds” that bloomed for Missouri Humanities in 2023:

Our membership swelled by 69%!

We earned two Emmy nominations and launched Humanities Tv.

The Ulysses S. Grant Bicentennial exhibit finished touring the state.

The Roots and Routes of the Ozarks symposium drew a record crowd.

The first annual Heartland Book Festival was hosted in Kansas City.

The Missouri Speakers Bureau reached four times as many rural Missourians as in previous years.

Our website got a fresh new look!

Two of our best issues of MO Humanities magazine were published;

And we enjoyed the first visit from Shelly Lowe, Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities!

The full bouquet of work is impressive. I feel fortunate to work with an exceptionally talented and creative crew of professionals. I am proud of the impact we have made in enriching the lives of Missourians across the state. For over 52 years, Missouri Humanities has worked to transform communities by providing Missourians with public programs that encourage critical thinking and dialogue. When understand the people, places, and ideas that shape our society, we can connect with others and work together to interpret the successes and challenges that we face. I’m grateful to every Missourian who attended our programs, consumed our digital content online, partnered with us on grant-funded projects, and donated to our work through membership and gifts.

As a Missouri Humanities Member and individual in our inner circle, you are special to us! We sincerely appreciate your support and look forward to cultivating our humanities community in the coming year. I wish you a year full of blooming success and budding opportunities!



[1] Eliot, Thomas S. “Four Quartets (1943).” San Diego: Harvest (1971).