No. 443



If you will grant me the privilege of coming into your mind for a little while today, I would like to share some thoughts that may really hit close to home. Ever since the days when our nation moved from an agricultural society to an industrialized society, our citizens have been drawn together in what has come to be known as communities. The larger communities, which really tax this definition, are called cities and this is where a large percentage of the American people live today. The real backbone of this nation however, can be found in smaller cities, towns, villages and hamlets with fewer than 100,000 people and most from 5,000 to 50,000 people. While you may disagree, it's been my experience that the quality of life is much better in a smaller community where people know each other, care for each other and work together to promote the best interests of all its people.

In most of these smaller communities you will find people who volunteer to help each other with no thought of personal gain. As I have traveled around this country, I have had the opportunity to see firsthand what great communities we have and I have heard stories of the sacrifices that it took to make them a terrific place to live, work and rear a family. One of the best examples that I have seen in a long time is the small town of Duncan, Oklahoma. This is a community of about 23,000 people, located in South Central Oklahoma, about 90 miles East of Lawton.

Several weeks ago I was invited to speak to their Annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet and it was truly a wonderful experience. After reviewing a beautiful publication chamber officials sent me titled, "DuncanÉA City Of Character," I decided to devote most of my time to the theme, "A Check-List For Community Success." After a considerable amount of thought, I came up with four key elements that I believe it takes to have a great community. As I share these, please think about your own community and how you might use these ideas to make it an even better place to live. Just remember this thought, because it's true: the strength of any community can be measured by the number of people who volunteer to do good things for others, without thought of personal gain.

No. 1 GOOD SCHOOLS. One of the things that really impressed me about the Duncan Public Schools are the volunteers who have formed an Academic Booster Club.Ê While athletics is important, parents and school officials understand that academics are what will carry their graduates to long-term success. A couple of other highlights include the fact that 96% of fifth graders passed the state writing tests and over 50% of Duncan High School graduates have a 3.0 or better grade average. When you contrast this with some communities that have an illiteracy rate of over 50%, you begin to understand just how important good schools really are.

No. 2 SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS. This is where good law enforcement really comes to the forefront. There must be a working partnership between members of the police, fire and other agencies to protect citizens and to make criminals aware that they are not welcome. New industry and people who earn higher incomes are not interested in coming to a community with a high crime rate. The way to achieve this is for criminals to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

No. 3 A HEALTHY DIVERSIFIED ECONOMY.Ê When it comes to jobs and the business climate, it's important to understand that the local Chamber of Commerce is the only organization working full time to promote new jobs and a strong economy. That's its sole purpose. A good indication of a healthy economy is NEW CONSTRUCTION. This past year Duncan had 45 Million Dollars in new construction projects and 17 Million more in new home construction. It's also important for the economy to be diversified. If just one major employer has layoffs or leaves town, it puts a tremendous strain on the whole community.

No. 4. WARM FRIENDLY PEOPLE. Here I'm happy to say that Duncan has an abundant supply of warm, friendly people and among them are some outstanding leaders. This is one of the reasons why it's one of the fastest growing communities in the state. When people really care about their neighbors and fellow workers, it makes a great deal of difference. Here is something I hope you will think about: "The goal of most leaders is to cause people to think more of the leader, but the goal of the great leader is to cause people to think more of themselves." Your community is important because this is where you live. Volunteer to make it even better.Ê Ê(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.