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Itâ€™s all over. The 2010-2011 school year is in the books for the senior class students in our county. It is a time of reflection for the fine young adults. All the ball games. All the classes. All the teachers. But most of all, the friends they have made and might possibly never see again. It is a time of transition from teenager to â€śthe real worldâ€ť so often described to us by our parents. They have been launched into the future and hopefully we have prepared them well. Only time will tell.
Rather than reflect on the changes of the prior school year, I think it is more fitting at this time to reflect back to that same day back in time when all of us crossed the stage, grabbed our diploma and turned our tassels. For me, the year was 1976. The place was C.W. Lewis stadium.
In those days, graduation ceremonies were held in town at the stadium. On that night, 330-plus seniors finished our education in Benton. Whether or not you agree with moving the ceremony to Little Rock is not the issue for this discussion. Letâ€™s focus on the town as it was back then, instead.
As mentioned, we still played football at C.W. Lewis stadium. We had elementary schools, two junior highs and one high school in Benton â€” no middle school. Military Road was the place to hang out on weekends. We had Tyndall Park and Bernard Holland Field for baseball and softball. Although I am sure there are many more, a drive around town doesnâ€™t show much difference other than a new â€śthisâ€ť or an expanded â€śthat.â€ť The airport is gone and Iâ€™m sure if we all looked more closely, other things will come to mind. But that really isnâ€™t the point of this discussion either.
What we need to focus on at this point is what has happened since each of us had our launch.
For all the cities in our county, think back at what â€śwasâ€ť and what â€ścouldâ€ť have been. Which initiatives and community efforts to improve our county were halted by innuendo, politics or elections. City boundaries and annexations have been tainted with controversy. School boards have more than their fair share of scrutiny over the decades. One or two failed initiatives or allegations of wrongdoing may not seem like much and quite possibly may not be at all. But when you add them up over the years and decades, you form a larger picture that may or may not be reflective of our community we all think we see. Or is it? Only you can decide.
Lest we focus on simply that which could have been, letâ€™s also take a moment to think of those who have fought the good fight to get things done. Rather than list them here and risk leaving out a deserving individual, I will ask that you search the past for yourself. Send me the names and the stories of those in your area that deserve to be noted.
It is true our parks in the county have grown. It is true that commerce has found a path to our door. None of this should be discounted nor should it be ignored. We need this type of growth but what we also need is a good reason for companies to relocate to our community and county. When they do, jobs will follow and commutes will shorten. As a result, taxes and revenues will stay in our county and isnâ€™t that what we all want?
We know that not all the people who live in our community actually graduated from our school systems. What community reputation did they face when they came here? Did it match what they thought they would find? Have we done our best to make them feel welcomed and involved? Sometimes a fresh perspective makes all the difference.
Finally, the question that deserves the closest scrutiny and honest reflection is, â€śHave we done all we could have done to create the future our young people deserve and need to move our county forward?â€ť Think back to your community as it stood when you were launched into the real world. Is it better? Is it worse? What is your answer?
The Saline Courier Editor-in-chief Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His column appears twice a week: on Fridays on Page 3 of The Saline Courier and on www.bentoncourier.com, and on the Opinion Page in Sundayâ€™s edition of The Saline Courier.Â