PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The following column was submitted prior to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
By Alex White
To the average observer, it appears that the United States economy is doing a great job of providing for everyone. After all, stocks, spending, and consumer confidence are all rising. For the time being, stagnation itself appears to be a thing of the past. It would be fantastic if that were the whole story. Unfortunately, there is much more than meets the eye.
In fact, even as the United States continues one of its longest periods of economic expansion, 60 million rural Americans are still living as if the Great Recession had never abated.
Small towns everywhere from Appalachia to the Midwest are experiencing shortages of good healthcare, teachers, government revenue, affordable housing, high-speed internet, good-paying jobs, and so many other things that places like Page County sorely need.
Nowadays, our first response tends to be looking outward to see how the state and federal government can “save us.” This column will propose that we can do so much more with our OWN resources to create change in our “backyard.” There are so many possibilities, and all that they require is creativity, gumption and a willingness to use our unique resources.
And no, that doesn’t just mean money; it means leveraging the space, relationships and institutions that can only be found in our small towns. This is NOT a new idea. You wouldn’t know it, but Page County used to be the site of a four-year college (Von Bora), home of a U.S. congressman (Rep. William A. Harris Sr.), and a hub of world-class industry.
It’s time to reclaim that status; this column is my humble contribution to the cause. Every month, I will discuss what WE can do to address the most pressing issues facing our county. I will analyze everything from poverty to homelessness, and my methods will emphasize those things that we can do without “breaking the bank” (and WITH our special potential as a small town). We have so many resources and a heritage of hard work at our disposal.
We’re so used to thinking about how the rest of the world can save us, that we forget the power that we have to SHAPE our world. To expand on the motto of a 19th-century Page County newspaper: “Do not despise small beginnings… rejoice to see the work begin…”
Jack “Alex” White is a first-year student at Harvard, where he is studying Government. While there, he has become the Policy Director for Harvard Undergraduates for Bipartisan Solutions (HUBS) and Senior Content Editor for the Harvard Economics Review. Alex is a lifelong native of Page County and graduate of Luray High School.