2014-01-24 / Society

2014 State of the City Address continued from page 8

pathetic pushovers – but would sacrifice anything to give them every opportunity to live up to their Godgiven potential.

I don’t worry about the Benjamin girls.

But I remain resolved in my firm belief that every child…EVERY CHILD…in this city deserves those same opportunities.

Every child, regardless of race, heritage, ethnicity or creed – regardless of what social status they belong to or what zip code they were born in – every child deserves to be loved, to be cared for, to be engaged and encouraged, challenged and protected.

Every child deserves the chance to shine.

But right now, that’s not the case. Right now our children are struggling and we must do more.

I must admit that I am personally and particularly concerned with the status of the young black men in our community and I believe that, together, we can develop new strategies and solutions that put children who may fail on the path to success and children who do succeed on the path to being superstars enriching this great city for generations to come.

I want our city working with business leaders, established non-profits, academia and yes the church to develop a Center of Excellence for Black Male Achievement so Columbia can establish itself as a model for thoughtful solution oriented ideas that improve the lives of all of our children.

Children don’t fail en masse. Adults fail children en masse.

The importance of faith-based partnerships in this endeavor, led by individuals like Dr. Wendell Estep of First Baptist Columbia and Dr. Charles Jackson of Brookland Baptist, cannot be overstated.

It cannot be overstated because I firmly believe that many of our children are fighting diabolic forces and you cannot fight the devil with manmade tools.

We need men and women of God actively involved in this discussion because we are fighting for our children’s souls, for the future of our city, and we can’t afford to wait.

I don’t know, maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe I’m thinking too big. Maybe I’m just a dreamer.

But I’ll tell you what I do know. I know that we can’t be content with recruiting new jobs when we can create entire new industries. We can’t settle for lowering unemployment by fractions of a percent here and there when we can cut it in half or wipe it away completely. We can’t be satisfied with a city that’s just safer than we were when we deserve to be truly safe - safety that doesn’t require provision, qualification and doesn’t need statistics to prove it.

I’m talking about changing the entire way we look at success and that requires that we open our eyes wide to the opportunities before us.

Pearl Buck once wrote, “I believe in human beings, but my faith is without sentimentality. I know that in environments of uncertainty, fear, and hunger, the human being is dwarfed and shaped without his being aware of it, just as the plant struggling under a stone does not know its own condition. Only when the stone is removed can it spring up freely into the light.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I say it’s time to remove that stone. I say it’s time to grasp our destiny with both hands. I say it’s time to shine.

Today at City Council we discussed just the kind of opportunity I’ve been talking about: building a year-round, multi-use sports and entertainment venue that would, among other things, host a Minor League Baseball team.

Now, understand what we’re talking about here, because this is about more than baseball.

It’s about embarking on the largest new economic development north of Elmwood in 40 years.

It’s about bringing half a million people Downtown every year. That’s more than three times the impact of the convention center.

It’s about new shoppers and diners booking 35,000 room nights and spending $201 million in our local hotels and restaurants.

It’s about creating more than 1,600 new jobs and $192 Million in new wages on top of the thousands of new jobs and $1.2 billion economic impact already projected for Bull Street.

And it’s about generating $18.5 million annually in new tax revenues to help support vital services like our police and fire departments.

Most importantly it’s about creating a community asset unlike anything we’ve ever known.

Imagine a place where a family can afford a night out together for forty dollars or less.

Imagine a father reconnecting with his son over a mid-summer double header or cub scouts camping out in the outfield.

Imagine professional sports supporting our local charities and non-profits and children who’ve never imagined a world beyond hardship and deprivation finding their heroes on the field of play instead of the street corner.

Imagine a new state of the art venue for art, concerts, business conferences and community events that compliments the surrounding neighborhoods instead of disrupting it and imagine doing it all without having to raise taxes, increase fees or pay for ongoing maintenance and operations.

That’s the kind of project we’re talking about and the opportunity we’ve been waiting for.

The city we are today is only a pale reflection of the city we can be…are meant to be: a city of ideas – new and bold, reaching past the boundaries of our preconception and conventional wisdom to break new ground and find it fertile.

Ideas that spark and inspire, that spin like centrifuges and rise like towers of glass and steel reaching to the sky.

Ideas that speak to that undeniably American impulse within us all driving us to explore and discover, innovate, invent and achieve.

There will always be those who disapprove and decry, who complain and criticize, who say we’re doing too much or moving too fast. There will always be those who bluster and blow with the cold north wind of negativity and doubt.

This is nothing new.

Nearly a century ago they argued that Columbia was too small, too backwoods and too Southern to train the soldiers our nation needed to fight the Great War bearing down in 1917. But today Fort Jackson stands as the United States Army’s flagship training facility and a source of pride for our city, our state and our nation.

40 years ago they said we didn’t need a zoo, didn’t want a zoo and couldn’t afford a zoo. But where would we be today without Riverbanks Zoo and the more than 1 million visitors it brings to our community every single year?

What if the old Columbia Mills Building had never become the State Museum, if the Columbia Museum of Art had never moved to Main Street and if EdVenture had never been built at all?

Imagine our great city with no Interstate highways, no Lake Murray, no Finlay Park and no University of South Carolina.

It’s like trying to imagine Charleston without the harbor, Greenville without the mountains or Myrtle Beach with no ocean because they are so intertwined with what this city is, who we are, that separating the two is unimaginable. But it all began with an idea, some small spark of creativity nurtured by the warm breath of hope.

That is who we are, a city of ideas born by hope and in that we become so much more than we were ever meant to be, more than some compromise between the Lowcountry and Upstate, a Capital for travel convenience, but rather an idea, an inspiration and an act of faith, a promise of something greater waiting just over the horizon if we can just find it within ourselves to believe.

“Our deepest fear,” Marianne Williamson once wrote, “is not that we are inadequate

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

“Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

So let the doubters doubt. Let the critics criticize. Let the naysayers say no.

We choose instead to believe. We choose to dream big and act boldly. We choose to roll away the stone and spring freely into the light.

Let the North Wind blow as strong as it may. We choose to shine.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God continue to bless the great City of Columbia.

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