Thursday, October 16, 2008

Al Neuharth: Small Town Had A Big Influence…

Al Neuharth, journalist and founder of USA Today, was a guest of Eureka School and the featured speaker at the University of South Dakota career fair last week, sharing his thoughts and opinions with some of South Dakota’s brightest young minds. Among the topics of discussion were the U.S. presidential race, his favorite memories of growing up in Eureka, SD, and the most interesting people he has ever met. He also noted some of his advantages in life were due to the small town atmosphere and sense of community. From the Aberdeen American News

What influence did Eureka and South Dakota have on you?

People from small towns like Eureka and elsewhere in middle America have an advantage over those from the coasts. And people at schools like Northern State University, South Dakota State University, and the University of South Dakota are better off than those who go to Ivy-League schools.

“Because you know what people are like. And people in larger towns and at upper-echelon schools don’t. They have blinders on,” Neuharth said.

After reading this I was discussing what Neuharth had said via email with a friend of mine who is a retired Superintendent of schools. His email reply to me contained a comment regarding closure of small town schools, which I would like to share…

Someday the powers that be will realize that students need a sense of community in order to develop completely. Yet we continue down a road contrary to what is best…and then they wonder why kids don’t care much about learning.

This is exactly what we need to foster in South Dakota. Students here are among the best and brightest in the nation… our communities have the capability to provide a strong social fabric that cannot be replicated anywhere else… and the sense of community in South Dakota, the same sense of community that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about De Smet, can be engendered once again.

Instead of managing community decline simply because that’s what is happening, let’s put together a course of action that can help all of our communities, large and small, continue to grow and prosper. In doing so, we can grasp the opportunities we have today, in order to build an even better future for tomorrow. After all… isn’t opportunity for a better future something we wish to leave for our children?

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