By Quint Studer
Independence Day is here and this year we celebrate our country's 244th birthday. America is in a time of major transition and transformation right now. We are facing a public health crisis, along with challenges in our economy and a powerful social justice movement. Together these events have shaken our nation's foundations. We have no doubt lost a lot during this difficult time. But because birthdays are a time to look back and reflect on what has gone well and what has not, this 4th of July I have been asking the question: Where do we go from here?
The good news is, we get to decide on the answer. We have great opportunity as we rebuild. As I continue working with cities and towns across the nation, I see so many reasons to believe that America will rise stronger than before.
What I have seen is that we are taking charge of our future one community at a time. Instead of waiting for government to "fix" things for us, we are working locally to find solutions and reinvent ourselves. I am continually inspired by the energy of everyone working together to make this happen.
The impact of all of us pulling together keeps local economies strong. I've seen business leaders sharing their wisdom and resources with one another. (Chambers of Commerce certainly play an important role in sharing information.) When the pandemic disrupted the normal flow of commerce, small businesses got creative and figured out how to keep afloat. And citizens did their part by ramping up their support of stores, restaurants, and local mom-and-pop enterprises.
During this time, we have also fully embraced the greatness of our small towns and communities. This Kia ad celebrating the Great American Road Trip is a touching reminder of how a reset forces a shift in our priorities. No doubt that taking a drive with your family gives you a chance to connect with those who matter most.
Important transformations are happening at the national level too. Out of necessity, entire industries are disrupting themselves. Education is working on new, better ways to use digital platforms to teach. Healthcare is moving to a promising telemedicine model. Yes, these changes bring their share of challenges, but we are also seeing lots of positives that remind us of the power of human ingenuity. We know we can always adapt and keep moving forward.
Some of the most meaningful shifts we have made are cultural and social conscience-driven shifts. We are finally getting real about race relations. Our nation is doing a lot of important soul-searching and having the hard conversations. We are taking down monuments of leaders connected to times in history when values were out of alignment with what we now know is right.
These national conversations have created real action. We are rethinking law enforcement policies and the role of police. We're improving training and doing a better job of holding accountable those who break the rules and/or use excessive force. We're putting funds into other community sources like mental health. These shifts are making us a better nation.
My great hope as a community builder is that we will see a groundswell of interest in minority entrepreneurship. We can find creative ways to invest in women and people of color. I regularly see many thriving businesses emerge when we practice economic inclusion on a local level. They add great richness to our communities.
My hope is that this July 4th, we will see more Americans putting self-interest on the back burner. When we start looking at the world as if every child were our own child, every neighborhood were our neighborhood, and every community were our community great things can happen.
All of us can strive to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We can all start working in our own communities to educate ourselves, engage ourselves and promote civic engagement, and reach out to others and connect them as well. Together we can work toward justice.
Gandhi asked us to be the change we wish to see in the world. He was speaking of a personal internal revolution that I hope we are all ready to make. Instead of waiting on government mandates or policies to compel us to act, let us make changes now because they are right and because they matter. There is no stronger power than communities all across America doing what they know is right.
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Quint Studer is the author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America and founder of Pensacola's Studer Community Institute. For more information, visit www.vibrantcommunityblueprint.com and www.studeri.org.