Youth of All Ages
One of the best parts of having elementary school age children is getting a chance to be around kids that are still young enough to see the best in things. They’re taught in school to not use put downs and in elementary school at least they’re still willing to honor that sandbox code. I realize that will change soon enough but in the meantime I try to soak in their enthusiasm for the little things in life and rediscover the joy’s of youth through their eyes.
I’ve heard it said that everyone enters school as question marks but by the time we graduate most of us become a bunch of periods. I have nothing against periods but it’s important to keep question marks handy and to use exclamation points as often as possible. And never under-estimate the power of commas.
It’s hip to be cynical – but cynics are just poor punctuators; they put periods where commas should be. Commas let everyone know there’s more to come. We’re not done yet. We’re a work in progress, in transition, getting better. That’s an important perspective to keep in mind, especially when it comes to rejuvenating a city.
One of the rules of thumb in the city manager world is that cities, and particularly downtowns, need to continuously renew themselves. There’s only two gears for downtowns, forward or reverse. And even great downtowns continuously change with changing times. They stay fresh. They reinvent themselves. They surprise.
When I worked in Alexandria Virginia we worked double time to keep Historic Old TownAlexandria from becoming stale. From the outside looking in I’m sure Old Town, just like Charleston, Asheville or Annapolis, gave the appearance of everything falling together with the greatest of ease to create these magical places to go visit or shop.
I’m here to tell you, I’ve been behind the curtain pulling the levers and I’ve talked with the wizards in those other cities and I promise you there is nothing easy about it. There is no rest. The Charleston Mayor talks of how he had to fight for every store, parcel by parcel, to push Charleston up that hill and how every day he has to start all over again.
It is exhausting and frustrating. More deals fall through than are closed. Promises for new projects came and went. Sound familiar?
The point is, if creating vibrant downtowns was easy, everyone would be doing it. What separates good from great downtowns is the passion of the community to make it happen. Community leaders will their way to success where others give up and give in to pessimism.
Don’t get me wrong, nothing beats having a great location, amazing natural beauty or a prominent history in your bag of tricks. But at the end of the day, it’s people that make the difference. It’s their stubborn optimism that refuses to give up time after time on the place they call home.
Optimism energizes. It’s contagious. It’s a fortifying confection.
I believe what Thomas Carlyle said to be as true today as the day he said it: “A man lives by believing something not by debating and arguing about many things.” My hope is that we can take this message to heart and rally around the one cause we all share: Kent. All 360 degrees of Kent.
I came to Kent to be a part of something special. I understood it wouldn’t be easy because I knew from experience it never is. We’re going to have to work for every point we get. I teach my kids that all the time but for some reason it’s a lesson whose affect diminishes with age.
We’ve had lots of lessons but what have we learned? I’ve learned that the creation of the unprecedented is always possible. My kids help me remember that and in that spirit I am sharing Kent through the eyes of its elementary school children that put together drawings of what they love about Kent.
This was an easy project for 8 year olds. Would it be as easy for you? It has to be.
My Favorite Kent Places
Huge Thanks to all the school kids that did such a great job seeing what’s great about Kent. These are just a few selections of all the great art work. I wish we had room to show them all.
Giant Eagle, Mary Parks
The KSU Brain, Jerry Lu
Holden School, Jason Grubb
New Library, Mitchell Roman
Pufferbelly/Main St. Bridge, Erica Taylor
Brady’s Leap/New Library, Mitchell Roman
Roosevelt High/Davey Elementary, Shannon Pressler
Standing Rock, Jack
Kent Rec Center
House, Chelcey Marie Bell
The Park, Louie Cameron
Rec Center, Maria Tolymbek
The River, Andrew Heritage
Black Squirrel, Angie
Kent Stage, Jasmine Hunt
Kramer 2 Ball Park, Alex McCue
School of Dance, Taylor Herring
Wild Goats Cafe, Madison Smalley
Kent Stage, AManda Smigel
Kent Free Library, Allison Hartsook