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January 30, 2006

love where you are

In Fort Worth last Friday, I spoke about the importance of civic engagement. I was followed by a series of local officials (the superintendent of schools, the public safety commissioner, a county commissioner, a former mayor, and others), who analyzed the main issues on their city’s agenda.

In my speech, I claimed that public engagement has declined for various reasons, including the rise of professional management and the lack of incentives to prepare young people to be capable citizens. A large proportion of the audience was young, so I ended with some arguments in favor of participating. For instance, I mentioned the intrinsic satisfaction of work on public problems. I ended by saying that you should always love where you are.

I explained that I couldn’t give any specific reasons to love Fort Worth or North Texas, because I’d only been there for 12 hours; but every place where human beings live can be loved. Every place has assets, history, and interesting complexity. To miss the place where you live is a great waste. Further, to love it means to explore it, to study it, and to work to improve it. This turned out to be a good way to conclude, because three or four of the subsequent speakers picked up my challenge and explained why one should love their city. (Incidentally, Dallas/Fort Worth--love it or not--is expected to double in size and become the megalopolis of the southern great plains.)

Posted by peterlevine at January 30, 2006 09:37 AM


This is a great post, Peter. Any serious effort to improve civic engagement has got to involve efforts to inculcate a love of the local. We currently live in a perfectly pleasant, small, mostly agricultural university town. There are wonderful people here--but we have come to realize that the university population has, to a great degree, given up on the town, and have little interest in really adjusting themselves to the rhythm of life around here. They do a fair amount to support the place when they're obliged to be here, but the minute the summer arrives, they're gone, and the population of the city drops by over half. Obviously, it's hard to generate the money or enthusiasm for genuine civic improvements when half the people who live here don't particularly love it--and in fact view it as a part-time residence at most.

Posted by: Russell Arben Fox [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 31, 2006 07:56 AM

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