The year is coming to a close and it is often good to reflect on the year gone by, not to criticize or ridicule, place blame or lament the things gone wrong. But rather, it is a time to celebrate what went right! There is time to consider the low points and move forward with optimism to not repeat any mistakes. It is a time to grow, to resolve that the next year will reap the rewards of the seeds sown.
Like many of you, I consider it a pleasure and an honor to be a member of the Penn State/State College community. There are few other locations in our country that have what we have. We are an urban forest – a little known fact. With a population density comparable to Toronto, we have more trees per capita than most urban centers. Consider that the next time you walk through town and through the fraternity district.
Look up and you will be amazed at the number of trees. We are regularly ranked in the top-ten safest communities to live and most recently were declared to be ‘almost’ recession proof. Students continue to raise incredible amounts of money FTK (for the kids) and the THON tradition goes on. Students continue to sacrifice by staffing Alpha Fire Company, saving lives and property. Alpha is the largest all volunteer fire department in the state. From the State College Food Bank, to the AIDS Project, to the Women’s Resource Center, to church groups, Arts Fest and the Fourth Fest, students contribute in amazing ways!
So, it is pleasure to live here.
And it’s a pleasure to be able to tell you, that despite some missteps along the way (Ohio State victory riot) there are more good deeds than bad. It is important to note as well that these good deeds are noticed, and more importantly, the citizens of State College appreciate all the good work you do.
I know that you can sometimes put in a long day and wonder if anyone has really noticed.
I want to reassure you: we do notice, we do appreciate what you do, we do value it, and we are grateful.
So thank you for your dedication, thank you for your imagination, and thank you for being part of another very good year.
On a more personal note, a notable example of the types of exemplary citizenship displayed in our community is the regular contributors to SOS. Those who blog here and submit articles exemplify the best Happy Valley has to offer. I am honored to know you and work with you. You all set a good example of the type of citizenry that community across the country envy. Your contributions to town and gown are noticed and appreciated. In particular I would like to thank Tom Shakely for not just talking, but acting – being an active participant in helping us all rediscover our country’s best traditions, both academic and public. Tom exemplifies those traits that made (make) our country great and State College is the richer for having him in our midst. Thank you Tom.
It’s true; we did have some missteps along the way. Some of our usual high expectations were tainted by a celebration gone badly. We all know that is not the best we have to offer. Let us resolve that we will learn from these mistakes and move forward, celebrating our school and town pride with honor and not disgrace.
And I have to tell you, if this stain on our community is the biggest worry in the world, things are not altogether bad.
Philadelphia is all but bankrupt, Florida’s home foreclosure rate is at an all-time high, the Gulf Coast is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina, California has burned and now is flooding, and Illinois’ governor makes our own governor look like an angel. No, by comparison, things are pretty damn good here!
So let’s count our blessings, and then let’s focus on what matters most: making sure we’re on top of our game. Let’s root for a victorious Rose Bowl and celebrate with dignity.
If we’re the ones to emulate, if we set the standard, we’ll be the ones to gain the most ground. And so in the next year, we have some great opportunities to do just that.
I think the Borough of State College can be the standard bearer of good governance and citizenry for the rest of the free world to emulate.
So what does that mean?
It means we can probably expect some changes in the months and years ahead. I know that’s not something we always feel eager about. We have upcoming debates on liquor taxes as a source of new revenue for the Borough. We have exciting construction projects about to break ground (Fraser Center) and we have a new direction for The West End.
When we step outside our normal, existing boundaries, we begin to feel a bit anxious. But I think we’re up to the challenge.
Because we have a great record for setting a target, and doing everything we can to meet it. We’re determined, we’re motivated, and most of all we’re adaptable.
I know our people are good. I know our students are good. And I want you to know that I have faith in you to keep us on the cutting edge.
So, I want to promise you these things: I can promise you some exciting and challenging times ahead, and I can also promise you this: you will have one hundred percent support from our town – which is your town.
We will make sure that State College’s goals are achievable, and we will make sure that your efforts in attaining those goals are as rewarding as it can be.
So thank you for all the effort that that has brought us to this point, and here’s to a future that’s every bit as bright as we believe it can be.
Merry Christmas and may you all have a healthy and prosperous 2009!