Governor Terry Branstad

Today  is the state’s 170th birthday. Governor Terry Branstad, who describes himself as a history buff, says it was then-President James K. Polk who signed the bill into law granting Iowa statehood.

“We became a state on December 28th of 1846,” Branstad said during a recent news conference at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines.

Slavery was an issue at the time Iowa entered the union. Iowa was a “free” state where slavery was not allowed.

“It wasn’t too many years later that we had the Great Civil War and Governor Kirkwood was the governor and he recruited more soldiers to fight to save the union than any other state, per capita, in the whole nation,” Branstad said, “and so Iowa played a very important role in helping preserve the union.”

Branstad, who was governor back in 1996, spearheaded a big celebration to mark Iowa’s 150th birthday — the sesquicentennial. A University of Iowa professor has come up with a Latin word for the 170th birthday. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs asked some famous Iowans to say it. Ames native Fred Hoiberg, the former Iowa State basketball coach who’s now coaching the Chicago Bulls, is the first to take a shot at the word on the video.

“Happy Birthday, Iowa — 170 has never looked so good,” Hoiberg said. “Happy Centisimoseptuagesimal.”

Senator Chuck Grassley takes a pass in the video.

“There’s a Latin word for Iowa being 170 years old. I wouldn’t even try to pronounce it, but I would say Happy 170th Year of Iowa Being a State.”

Congressman Dave Loebsack did give it a go.

“I want to wish you a Happy Centisimoseptuagesimal,” Loebsack said. “You’re looking good for 170 and here’s to at least 170 more!”

Governor Branstad told reporters earlier this month he’s not going to try to say that “tongue twister” but he credits Loebsack for “doing a pretty good job” in pronouncing it.

Branstad turned 70 in November. He was born during Iowa’s centennial year — 1946.

“That’s when Governor Robert D. Blue established the Centennial Memorial Foundation and they had a great celebration and that foundation is still available and we still provide scholarships and, from time to time, recognize outstanding Iowans to receive that Iowa Award.”

Twenty-three Iowans have received the award. Former President Herbert Hoover, a native of West Branch, Iowa, was the first recipient. The most recent Iowa Award winner is businessman and philanthropist John Pappajohn.