It’s that time of year when people who live in small towns across the country celebrate and mourn at the same time. We celebrate our high school seniors reaching a milestone of adulthood as they graduate and move on to that next phase of their lives. We mourn the fact that we know with relative certainty that many are gone for good, with little chance of returning.
An education should not be a reason to leave our local communities and sever roots. As discussed here and here, an economic policy which empowers locally owned businesses and strengthens local economies is good economics but also good community building and statecraft. Only when we restore strength and vigor to our local economies will our best and brightest have a reason to return home.
The article continues with these thoughts:
What if, instead of sending them off as we do now, we did things differently?
* Change the conversation with our sons and daughters, and let them know early on, “we want you to get an education, see the world, and come back.”
* Assure them that when they return we’ll have opportunities waiting in small business, small farms and ranches, and make sure we do.
* Welcome them back and see them as a success instead of asking “why in the world did you come back here?”
* Recognize them as adults and a valued part of the community instead of that little kid we remember them as.
* Pay attention – real, serious attention – to our youth who do not leave to pursue higher education and support their development and growth.
If we look at all of these “what ifs” and begin to dream a bit, we could start to see graduation day as a total celebration, knowing we’re doing all we can to ensure that some of those young folks will be back, raising families and making our communities stronger.
I hope to not only provide a world-class education for our children; I am equally committed to developing and implementing policies which enable our local economies to be resilient, self-reliant, and flourish so that our children will desire to return home. Such an economic environment comes about when the local economy is not dependent on single particular industry but rather enjoys a multitude of economic engines. In words of King Solomon, “Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.” Ecclesiastes 11:2
Let these “what-ifs” no longer be spoken in Alabama.