Tonight I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the inauguration ball for our new County Executive. The room was packed, as one would suspect. Many of the politically powerful people of the County were in attendance. But one event during the night brought a little tear to my eye, a warmth to my heart, and a great big hope for things to come.
As part of the opening ceremonies, a young lady took to the stage to sing the National Anthem. The young lady, 14 year-old Morgan Kelly from New City, began her lovely rendition with a respectful hush having fallen over the crowd. As she reached the highest notes of the song, her voice cracked. It was a horrific moment for this young girl, and she fled the stage, likely from embarrassment.
Several people, led by Jean Day, rushed to comfort Morgan, and to encourage her to continue. The entire crowd was soon joining in, cheering Morgan on, willing her back to the stage. It took a little time, but the cheering of the crowd and the encouragement from those close to her worked, and she picked up where she left off. After one line, the entire audience sang along to the finish of the song, and then a rousing round of applause was heard for several minutes.
This, I thought, was what this night and this new chapter of our history is all about. It is about individual will and determination. It is about falling down, but willing to get back up and try again. It is about having those around you, both those you know and those you don’t, offering support and encouragement, and even sometimes pitching in to help get things done.
We all know the road ahead will be a bumpy one. As I said to one friend at the event, I wish I had x-ray or some sort of telepathic vision. Not to see through clothing but to see inside the minds of those assembled, just to see the reasons why those at the event were there. Let’s face it, everyone has motivational factors that guide their actions. Some have an agenda that is self-serving. Some do what they do for the good of others. Often it is difficult to know who stands for what. But if we truly want to get back the County that many of us love to call home, it will take a collaboration of many to make it happen.
Many have differing opinions as to how we landed in the mess we are in.There is plenty of blame to pass around, and we could (and some do) want to spend a great deal of time doing just that - blaming others. While we should understand who is to blame, that can’t be our focus if we want to get past our problems and build a better future. There is an undeniable fact of life - you can’t change a single thing that has already happened. Not something from 100 years past nor one second ago. You can, however, learn from the past, and to study and understand it, and incorporate those lessons learned to produce a better outcome going forward.
Today was a day full of lessons for me. This morning I had breakfast with a friend who works for the State of NY in a financial capacity. In discussing what I had planned for the evening, the conversation turned to the state of the County’s finances. My friend being a somewhat astute financial person, I assumed he was aware of the hole the County was in. More like a sinkhole to the tune of roughly $140 million. My friend looked at me with amazement, and sheepishly admitted he had no idea that the debt was that large. Of course I inquired how he could be so unaware. He said his focus was on the National debt of somewhere in the neighborhood of $17 trillion and the State debt which varies by whose report you read but is easily in the hundred’s of billions. Fair enough, I suppose, to not be focused on our County problems if your focus is elsewhere.
I know there are many others who are not focused on our debt situation either. Many go about their daily business of life, raising families, working to make a living, recreating, enjoying the company of friends and family. These people choose not to be consumed by politics or the state go government and school systems. They elect people to deal with these issues and trust and hope that those people are doing the right thing. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and so we do need some people watching the pots on the stove and making sure things don’t boil over. We need some talented people to step up and run for office for the right reasons. We need elected officials who are willing to challenge what is wrong and not cater to special interest groups, even those the special interest groups may be the key to getting elected or re-elected. That takes a special kind of person. I think Ed Day is the first wave of that special kind of person. That doesn’t mean there aren’t others in public office who do the right thing, but times are changing and we need to see more transparency in government and more good people stepping up to the plate.
And we need more moments like that provided by Morgan Kelly, who may have thought she struck out tonight, but what she really did was hit a grand slam. She may not know it (although I did pass it along through her dad), but the 500+ people in the room tonight certainly do.