The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 28, 2014

Communities make progress happen, ESPN founder tells local chamber

JOHNSTOWN — Politicians make good followers, but it is communities throughout this country that are the force moving the nation forward, one of the founders of the ESPN sports network said in Johnstown on Thursday.

Scott Rasmussen, who along with his father started the cable television network, said politicians lag behind by an average of 10 years in passing laws that would be popular with the majority of citizens.

He was the keynote speaker at the annual dinner of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce. The dinner, attended by about 275 people, was held at the Pasquerilla Conference Center in downtown Johnstown.

For instance, in 1943, Rosa Parks, an African-American civil rights activist, refused to give her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., he said. Her action accomplished nothing because it went unnoticed by the American public, he said.

Ten years later, Parks did the same thing in the same city. This time her refusal to give up her seat gained national attention because citizens wanted change.

Washington responded to that call for change 10 years later by passing the Civil Rights Act, he said.

He pointed to a humorous example of how the citizenry can effect change.

In 1869 and decades before women’s suffrage, Wyoming, then a territory of the United States, voted to allow women to vote, he said.

The reason: Men wanted more women to move to Wyoming, he said.

That was another instance when the average citizen can move the country forward, he said.

Citizens also are the ones who remain optimistic, unlike Washington, which uses pessimism to advance its agenda, he said.

Steve Tucker, chairman of the chamber, said Rasmussen was insightful in terms of the political environment throughout the country.

Bill Locher, senior vice president of the corporate banking division of Somerset Trust Co., said Rasmussen was extremely insightful and had a great understanding of national issues. Rasmussen offered interesting ideas and solutions; however, those ideas would be difficult to implement, he said.

Ed Porada, a Geistown councilman, said he believes Rasmussen’s speech hit the target.

He said during his 30 years as a councilman, Geistown has been able to grasp the insight of residents and move the ideas forward through local and state lawmakers.

Rosemary Pawlowski,  a member of the chamber’s cultural affairs committee,

said Rasmussen had an impressive treasury of current information about trends and

political expectations.

“He wanted to know about our community,” she said about when Rasmussen arrived in town. “His presentation was designed to engage the interests of the community.”

Tucker, in addressing the crowd before Rasmussen spoke, said the chamber has been working hard to promote unique opportunities for businesses and individuals to continue making a difference in the community.

The chamber also has an award to that effect.

Somerset Trust was presented with the cultural affairs award by Pawlowski for its efforts to promote the arts and culture in the community.

Locher said he was honored and pleased to accept the award on behalf of the 328 employees and G. Henry Cook, president and chief executive of the bank.

Somerset Trust congratulates all businesses in the region for working to make this community great, he said.

Bobbie Ream, vice president of business development at Somerset Trust, said the employees at the bank are involved in 240 nonprofit organizations.

“You can see that we really care,” she said.

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

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