One of the ways we have adopted to circulate the truth and test it against the perception of others is through a free press, in which facts of every kind accumulate regularly and new ideas struggle daily – leaving it to the reader to judge. It may not be pretty. But leadership demands no less.
In my profession, I try to prepare students for this exchange, so they are critical consumers of the truth and ultimately producers. We aspire as citizens to tolerate a range of ideas, even crazy ones, and then use logic to sort through the possibilities. What’s really going on? What seems to be working? What should we try to become?
Just as a young person must take a conflicted, incomplete character (just picture any typical teenager) and try to find a unifying purpose, for the sake of living a life of meaning, so also a community like Decatur County must take a conflicted, incomplete mélange of people, places, businesses, and resources and try to find its unifying purpose.
To quote a wise woman named Mary Parker Follett, community is actually a process. It’s a never-ending enterprise, assimilating new members and adapting to changing conditions, without losing one’s soul. Say what you will, there is nothing closer to sharing in the creative power of the divine than building, sustaining, and improving one’s community.
I make it sound pretentious. Still, this conviction was what returned me again and again to the keyboard, making what little contribution I could to the circulation of truth, because I trust the leaders who have read me all these years to know what to do with it.
Soon, in the natural rhythm of things, the next generation assumes responsibility. If I have done my job well as a teacher (and as a father), your leaders there will continue to practice community. I have moved away. You need people closer to the situation to have their say. I trust you to hear them. My voice is now meant for different audiences and different songs. May the editors grant me a few more weeks, and then good-bye.