A few days in March: a reminder of what could be

Daily orange letter to the editor : Published on March 31, 2016 at 10:19 pm

Over the past few weeks, a great deal of national attention has focused on Syracuse. Both the men and women’s basketball teams have peaked at just the right moment. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.

It’s just what the doctor ordered for the city of Syracuse. Over the past year or two, most or any national news relating to the city has regarded its extreme poverty rates and lack of economic growth. Locally, division widens over the idea of merging the city and county. Today, rich or poor, pro or against that merger plan, we all have something to be proud of.

Unfortunately, this feeling of euphoria will eventually fade, win or lose. Still, maybe there’s something to be learned from the experience, besides the advantages of running a stellar 2-3 zone. Aren’t we stronger when we have a shared sense of pride in something communal? Certainly, it must be beneficial to have the attention of the nation.

So, can we emulate such pride, on a more permanent level?

The city of Charleston, South Carolina, may shed light on an answer.  The city hosts the annual 17-day Spoleto Arts Festival, with art displays and major concerts that bring visitors from around the globe. In a New York Time’s interview, Charleston’s longtime Mayor, Joe Riley, stated that “you need to commit a city to excellence”; the festival “forced the city to take on the responsibility of putting on something world-class.”

A similar example was displayed in Chicago, in the late 1800s. In 1871, The Great Fire destroyed over 3 miles of property. Crime, employment rates and workers’ rights created unrest, which boiled over in 1886, when police fired on a group of working protestors.

Yet, by 1893, civic pride had improved dramatically. This was mostly due to the Chicago World’s Fair, constructed by a team of architects led by Daniel H. Burnham. Fluorescent light bulbs, a Ferris Wheel and dishwashers were among many of the “firsts” introduced at the fair. Perhaps its greatest achievement was its architectural beauty, which helped draw in over 25 million visitors.

In Syracuse, we feel proud at the moment, but economic realities remain pressing. With out-of-the-box thinking, perhaps there is a way to duplicate that civic pride, while changing those realities. As far as ideas, Burnham provides a good starting point: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

Liam Kirst
Political Science Fall ’16

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