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).

Trish Watson, Scott Grahl, and John Butz with Andy Benton

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.

John Butz Interview with Andy Benton

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.

3 Responses to "Day 3 – Springfield to Rolla"

  1. Ashley Gartrell Says:

    If I had the pleasure of designing a mandatory college course, I would entitle it, "Literary Travels". The class would be asked to read a non-fiction book of their choice about a historic event (Boston Tea Party, the Gold Rush, the Alamo, etc.) and travel to the central destination of the incident. Students may also choose a biography and visit the city or state of that person's greatest achievements.

    Through reading, you learn the details of a historic event or well-known individual, most of its history, and facts leading up to the climactic occasion; however, by physically visiting the intended location, you have the clarity to appreciate what happened in the past, people involved, and the vastness of the situation formerly studied. The ability to behold and touch what you have previously read about is a paramount experience.

    To emphasize my point, it is not until you see the exact bricks where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, or peruse the headstones at Gettysburg National Cemetery will you utterly understand the impact of the past and how far we have come as a nation. Reading about these events is undoubtedly moving; seeing it with your own eyes is life-changing. The significance of experiential learning is vast and regrettably not practiced enough in the world of literature. I believe students would benefit immensely by bridging the gap between reading, traveling, and romanticizing about the past. Not only would they comprehend the depth to which our nation's history extends, they would also hold greater respect for the key individuals of our yesteryear. The final goal would be for students to admire and treasure the power of a book, its ability to captivate and make you ponder life and what lies beyond your individual comfort zone.

    Similar to President Benton, I am fond of road trips and in a perfect world (with endless funding!) I would ask that students drive to their desired destination. This allows them to see different states, communities and individuals they may otherwise never encounter on their own. It is an eye-opening, indispensable experience that would prepare them for their upcoming target. Driving the open road allows you to see life from a whole new perspective, one that is lucid and vibrant with the true intentions and goodness of mankind. In addition, driving hundreds of miles also instills a certain maturity to handle several types of situations and truly tests your ability to trust yourself and your surroundings. You walk away from a road trip more comfortable in your own skin, and what better lesson to teach the youth of today?

    This class would benefit students many years after graduation by simply staying with them. No one can take away knowledge from a book read or images of places traveled. I am convinced that if this course were tangible to students they would rediscover a love of reading, traveling, and learning about the United States, instilling a desire to think, act, and participate more in the overall health of our nation.

  2. jerry Says:

    Ashley, your note is beeatuiful and wise. I loved reading it. Thanks so much for sharing a bit of yourself here.

  3. Andy Says:

    Ashley, You post is beautiful. Thank you for it. I am going to save it for latter reference.