The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

David Knepper

January 1, 2012

2012 best year ever for our region? No doubt about it

“When I look into the future, it’s so bright it burns my eyes.”

–Oprah Winfrey

This new year can be our best chance ever to bring meaningful and significant change to our region. It depends on whether we embrace change or retreat from it, or on whether we let it slip from our grasp because we failed to come together in order to create positive, sustainable change that is our future in 2012.

If that happens, then our region will begin to pop-up on everyone’s “radar screen” as the place to be with the identifier – “open for business.”

Understand this: We don’t have precious time or preference to travel on two different pathways – we have to make a choice to either travel down a pathway that is predictable, easy, peaceful and well-worn, or one that requires change, tough choices and sacrifice.

(Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”)

If we choose the one less traveled, hopefully, when we look behind us there will be a procession of those, like us, who are determined to do the heavy lifting when required and to stay the course.

Then, those few opportunists, seeking after their own aggrandizement, will drop away after just a few steps.

The new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead may not be as tortuous for example as losing weight, giving up smoking and staying fit.

Our list of five ways to welcome in the new year, however, will usher in a new course, a new direction that will set us on a new pathway to progress and begin building a better tomorrow within our region/county.

First, reflect on whether or not I add value to my community by what I do and by what I say.

Do I try to serve the greater good by volunteering to use my talents, skills and experiences in a manner that reflects not only on my own character but the character of the community?

If you were to be asked what makes your community great or what you could do to make it so, might I do so without reservation or hesitancy? Am I not only part of the solution but the problem?

Second, did I make a commitment to vote this year? Did I encourage my neighbors to vote, especially, my children and grandchildren? Will I endeavor to be better informed about the candidates and their platforms this year?

Third, will I make plans to attend local municipal and school board meetings so I can be better informed?

When the new Cambria County commissioners schedule periodically their business meetings in my area, will I be in attendance to make them welcome?

Fourth, treat anyone that you meet as a guest in your community. You never know if that “stranger” may be interested in bringing his business to the region/county. Don’t respond by saying: “Why would anyone want to come here? If I had a chance to leave, I would do so.” Such sarcasm belongs in the privy. All of us serve as good ambassadors for our region/county.

Interestingly, it is those who travel through our region/county that often surprise us by telling us how special this place is compared to where they live. “Do you know how nice it is here? I wish that I could have the opportunity to come back – perhaps, when I retire.”

Seize the moment by telling them,  “Why not? Let me help you make that dream a reality.”

Finally, the last of our ways to welcome in the new year ends with a wish: That all of us become more energized, making each day count for something – especially for those we love. Remember to treat everyone – each day – with respect and kindness.

The African-American theologian Howard Thurman said: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”

And so, as the old year changes into the new year, promise to stay engaged, informed and positive.

David A. Knepper is president of Allegheny Development Group LLC and is currently the executive director of the Forest Hills Regional Alliance. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Penn State. His column appears the first Sunday of each month.

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