The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 4, 2010

DAVID KNEPPER | Easter is a season for reawakening our hope

David Knepper
For The Tribune-Democrat

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

– Dale Carnegie

Easter and spring are synonymous with life reborn and renewed.

* Fragile shoots of daffodils begin pushing their way up through winter’s frozen crust.

* Sparrows returning from their winter’s rest now serenade us from their leafless perches.

* Warm breezes hug the land once more with an unmistakable fragrance of spring in the air.  

Our celebration of Easter marks the beginning of new life, new hope and new dreams. 

My spirits soar when I recall the words of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’ ”

This is the time and place in our history when our hopes and dreams are stirred to action. New challenges and opportunities test our resolve and commitment to join together in the struggle for revitalizing our region.

It is a pathway that holds promise and excitement for those who wish to join hands in getting the job done.

Linked together by a common purpose and driven by higher aspirations, our communities, representing municipalities and school districts, for example, when unified by a common purpose and a shared vision could become a model for improving services and lowering costs. 

Such planning efforts will require leadership that takes a common sense approach to higher places.  

Fortunately, there is movement under way and this vision is beginning to be embraced at all levels of private and public interest.

One fine example of shared visioning is that of a diverse group of young professionals known as the Young Professional of the Alleghenies. This group is on a mission to enhance the lives of people in our community through social and business events, as well as community-service projects. 

Recently, government, health, human services and charity leaders sat down to address the need to continue to improve the health delivery system in our region.

Travelers have something to cheer about as efforts by the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority move forward to expand commuter flights at the Richland Township airport. 

Significant collaborative efforts are now under way for developing comprehensive strategic plans in both Somerset and Cambria counties, namely the Johnstown Master Plan, the 20/20 Regional Vision Project, the Forest Hills Multi-Municipal Plan and the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative. All are moving forward with great speed – a sure sign that hope is alive in our region.

Jesse Jackson, in his 1988 speech to the Democratic National Convention, stated: “You must never stop dreaming. Face reality, yes, but don’t stop with the way things are. Dream of things as they ought to be. Dream. Face pain, but love, hope, faith and dreams will help you rise above the pain. Use hope and imagination as weapons of survival and progress, but you keep on dreaming. …”

His words, spoken more than 20 years ago, are as relevant today as they were then.

Hope flourishes in a climate where pessimism, cynicism and despair are neither encouraged nor tolerated.

Reform requires adjustment to change that may not be to our liking, nor be popular.

Who can ever forget the stern advice of Lee Iacocca, who used to say in his Chrysler advertisements: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way?” 

Let’s quit contemplating the consequences of our actions only in terms of personal profit or reward, or, at the very least, personal favorability.

If we are not serious in making a course correction as if it only applies to piloting a plane, then, perhaps, we need to get out of the way or get run over.

My hope for this region is that we board the “train of progress” together on the same track and in the same car – if our region is to prosper and grow, not merely survive.

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.