Day 3 – Springfield to Rolla
What a perfect summer day in Missouri. Hot, humid, and completely clear. A seasonal thunderstorm would be spectacular to behold, but one should not complain about weather like this.
We left Illinois yesterday on schedule and drove straight (well, to the extent that any trip on Route 66 is straight!) to Rolla, Missouri, where we took video of local sights and had an interview with John Butz, the city administrator; Scott Grahl, the communication coordinator for Rolla; and Trish Watson, the director of the New Student Program at Missouri University for Science and Technology (formerly University of Missouri at Rolla).
The participants seemed to forget the cameras and spoke personally and with conviction. And they were ready for us, with hospitality we did not expect and a generous gift of time. Rolla is a university town with some of the same challenges we face in Malibu. The participants were each public servants and we learned how they found their way to public service and, in one case, higher education.
Looking for influences in their lives, we discussed parental impact, mentors, and, in one case, a mother who defied the odds to provide opportunity and a bright future for her daughter. All three participants were parents and two had college-age children. They expressed hope that in addition to the academic curriculum, their children would emerge from college with a strong work ethic, a desire to serve others, and an understanding that success is about much more than material things.
The group also expressed a desire that our federal government focus on its own strengths – defense, commerce, common national interests, and the like – and avoid too much local intervention. When asked to comment on the strengths of our nation, the discussion was deep and meaningful.
Frankly, since I cannot easily take notes as we visit, I look forward to experiencing each of these recorded sessions when I get home to be reminded of all that was shared. With conviction I can say that Rolla is in good hands and this appears to be a community very proud of its accomplishments and its future.
It would be interesting to have the benefit of what many of you might say in response to some of today's questions. I invite you to please respond to one or all of them. I plan to read all of your comments.
1. Reflect on someone who was influential in your life.
2. What do you hope college students (perhaps even your college student) will gain from their educational journey beyond a degree?
3. If you could design a required course for all students, what would it contain and how would it benefit them after graduation?
4. What do you admire about our nation and its citizens?
5. If you could take a young person for a long walk, what timeless values would you like to impart?
I have more questions, but let's start there. Thanks for joining me in this rich conversation.