President Franklin D. Roosevelt invested in public works projects to create jobs for unemployed Americans. The Great Depression demonstrated that spending on the infrastructure of our country could be an instrument of social policy and change. The investments were viewed as an economic catalyst. That policy and those investments created jobs, put people back to work and strengthened the economy.
When World War II ended, the United States went back to work rebuilding our nation. Schools, roads, bridges, transportation, colleges and libraries were being built within newly developed communities. Each community connected to the state and each state connecting to a nation united by new roads and a new interstate highway system. Individual sacrifice was the foundation on which the United States was being rebuilt.
In turn, the dreams of a nation for social and economic mobility were being realized creating a stronger middle class.
By 1980, however, that infrastructure was eroding. In 1981, economists Pat Choate and Susan Walter wrote in their book America in Ruins that our libraries, schools, colleges, roads and bridges were indeed wearing out and reduced spending on the infrastructure was to blame for many of the country’s economic and social problems. Our nation’s schools had eroded to a point that educator Jonathan Kozol wrote that savage inequalities were the inevitable outcome.
Our challenge now, just as it was during the Depression and post WW II America, even in this fiscal environment, is to work together to rebuild the infrastructure so as to turn our most recent transgressions of inequity into a future of equal opportunity. Public Education (PK- Higher Education) is, as President Obama has said, “no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a pre-requisite.”
From Hurricanes Katrina to Sandy, nature has taken its toll on our cities and towns – and the people who live in them. Many in our community know firsthand the fears and frustrations of roads and bridges closed by Tropical Storm Irene.[blockquote align=”left” cite=”- Suzan Lori Parks”]…believe that the sort of life you wish to live is, at this very moment, just waiting for you to summon it. And when you wish for it, you begin moving toward it, and it, in turn begins moving toward you.[/blockquote]
Far too many know similar fears and frustrations as the doors to opportunity are closing every day. It is as if a banner with the words “Do Not Enter” is placed across the entry at Ellis Island.
At a time of a decreasing middle class; at a time of increasing isolation and decreasing hope; at a time when our nation does not seem to act on its stated egalitarian values – our college and this community has always and will always – strive for something better.
Democracy does not flourish in a separate and unequal society; it is the outcome of our collective commitment to provide a good education for all. GCC holds out that lantern and provides hope for our students and this community.
The pathway to social and economic mobility in our community does pass through the doors of Greenfield Community College. There are many right now who are talking the talk about the American Dream. Few however, walk the walk that GCC students, their families, our faculty and staff and this community do – together. On behalf of all at GCC, thank you for all that you do to make good on the promise of a nation and help to create the stuff that dreams are built on.