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Staff Editorials

Words to graduates

    The benefits of failures, finding what you love, choosing what to think about, and being kind

      If you Google “Best commencement speeches,” you’ll find a list of very recognizable names. Names like Steve Jobs, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Winston Churchill, George Saunders, Oprah Winfrey, and, of course, the much applauded David Foster Wallace address at Kenyon College.
    In 20-minute addresses these great innovators, thinkers, and writers attempt to inspire graduates to “find what you love,” “be responsible,” “be your own story,” and “become kinder.”    
    In his speech,  Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace said the freedom of real education and learning to be well-adjusted is consciously deciding what has meaning and what doesn’t.
    He said, “learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you can not or will not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”
    We hope our PHS graduates will find the  the following speeches something to rely on after your final student walk on the campus Saturday. 

J.K. Rowling
(Harvard, 2008)
    “So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.         Had I really succeeded at anything else I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Neil Gaiman
(University of the Arts in Philadelphia, 2012)
    “So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would. And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”

George Saunders
(Syracuse University, 2013)
    “Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.
    Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s. 
    Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.”

Steve Jobs
(Stanford, 2005)
    “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
    Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.”

Port Royal Water Park the talk of the town

    Since Port Royal leaders were the featured program at the chamber of commerce last week, all talk in Pickens has been water park.
    Public discussion boils down to potential  jobs versus potential disruption of small town atmosphere.
    Below are some of the comments received online, at our Facebook page and in e-mails to our office and  some face-to-face.
    We would offer one cautionary note, no official plans have been submitted nor property purchase finalized.

Pros -- much needed jobs and tax income
    This is an unbelievable opportunity for Jasper and the surrounding area. It could actually bring growth and vitality to this area. We must “think out of the box” and move this area forward! It is an AWESOME idea for our county!!!!!!!
-- from our website comments

    One person said they had been to other, similar water parks in the northern states and they were very nice family places where kids from age 2 to age 19 could enjoy spending a day, while grandparents relaxed in other parts of the resort. 
-- in-person comment

    What y’all must not understand is this is not being built for the locals to enjoy. It’s a ‘destination resort and conference center’. Think: Orlando, FL.
    The local residents are not the people expected to keep this place open. According to the developers who spoke yesterday, there will be discounted rates for Jasper/Pickens residents. What this place will do is provide much needed jobs and tax income.
-- Dwayne Martin from Facebook

    I’m looking forward to the change. It’s about time something came to Jasper to give more people jobs without having to drive a long ways. And I believe it will give outsiders a great chance to experience the country & small town stores.
-- Tara Townsend Caylor from Facebook

    Jobs, tax revenue, more money for services to improve for resident citizens. Sounds good to me. Way to go city of Jasper. I applaud you for seeing potential when county officials didn’t.
-- Jake Reppert from Facebook

    Jasper is about to be on the map. Property values will increase, more restaurants, more everything. Yeah come on. 
-- Jay Simmons from Facebook

Cons - the small town feel will be gone
    If Pickens had some experience with tourism as does Dawson County and Blue Ridge, maybe they would be more prepared for something like this, but they don’t and the county is so needy for something to turn around the economy they are easily dazzled. All that glitters is not gold.
-- From e-mail to editor

    Regarding the palm trees in the artist rendering -- “Just something to make you go hmmmmmmm.”
-- From another e-mail to editor

    Think about what has happened to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tenn.? You People want Jasper to turn into those places?
-- Jason Christensen from Facebook

    Yikes, hope they plan to add lanes to 515. Traffic is already horrible.
-- Crystal Harvill Roberts from Facebook
    So much for retiring and moving up to Jasper in the future. The small town feel will be gone, your bread and butter retirees that pay property taxes will sell and move away to a more quiet area.
-- K Jackson Vallese from Facebook

    Sooner or later they will use the B word ... BONDS. That is where the rubber meets the road. One thing is for certain, and that is that life in Pickens will never be the same. Just a couple of years ago, we touted that people moved here because of the lifestyle. That will be gone, and apparently that is no longer important.
-- From e-mail to editor

    I’m surprised so many want this in Jasper. I like the small town feel, but to each his/her own.
-- Jesse Horne on Facebook

Pull an Anna Jarvis this Mother’s Day

    With Mother’s Day approaching this Sunday, employees who work in the floral industry are making arrangements at break neck speed. People who work at restaurants are preparing for a day of insanity, and folks in the greeting card and chocolate industries have anticipated peak sales.
    But knowing what a juggernaut of commercialism Mother’s Day has become would cause the holiday’s founder Anna Jarvis to roll over in her grave. And in fact, Jarvis – who created the holiday after her mother’s death - spent more time denouncing the holiday than she spent creating it after losing control to corporate interests.
    Here’s a brief timeline to catch you up to speed:
    •As a young girl, Jarvis overheard her mother tell her Sunday school class that she wished for a day to honor mothers.
    •In 1905 Jarvis’ mother – who cared for wounded soldiers in the Civil War – died. During the war Jarvis’ mother formed Mothers Friendship Day to foster peace between Union and Confederate mothers and was well known for her charity work. Jarvis was overwhelmed with kind letters she received from family and friends after her mother’s death.
    •In 1907 in Philadelphia, Jarvis - who worked in the advertising department of an insurance company - began her crusade to have National Mother’s Day recognized around the world through an aggressive campaign.
    •In 1908 Jarvis sent 500 white carnations – her mother’s favorite flower – to a Mother’s Day event that was held at the Sunday school where her mother taught. Jarvis wanted the carnation to be worn on Mother’s Day to honor mothers and to represent the purity of a mother’s love.
    •In 1909 Mother’s Day services were held at over 40 states, as well as in Canada and Mexico. The white carnation was worn at these events.   
    •Despite harsh opposition from many U.S. Senators, Jarvis’ persistent campaigning and the increasing popularity of Mother’s Day events led to the adoption of Mother’s Day as a national holiday in 1914, to be observed the second Sunday in May.
    But like Frankenstein giving life to a monster he eventually came to abhor, the adoption of the holiday marked the beginning of the end of the day’s sanctity for Jarvis.   
    White carnations became a must-have and led to profiteering by floral companies. After a few years the floral, greeting card and chocolate companies had their claws wrapped so tightly around the holiday that Jarvis would never be able to loosen their grip.
    Jarvis (who incidentally never married and never had children) came to resent the holiday and began a campaign to have it abolished. She was arrested for protesting the sale of carnations and - as history has it - after seeing a “Mother’s Day Salad” on a tearoom menu, Jarvis ordered it for the sole purpose of dumping it on the floor and stomping it. She sued powerful leaders and went door-to-door collecting petition signatures.
    "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," Jarvis said, going on to call greeting cards with printed messages "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write."
    “A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing,” she said, “except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.”
    Jarvis battled the holiday until 1948 when she died in a mental institution, indigent, blind and partially deaf.
    So this Mother’s Day lets honor the true spirit of the day as Jarvis had intended it. Forgo the Hallmark card for something you write yourself, and forget about the expensive gifts. Just tell your mom what she means to you and tell her how much you appreciate what she’s sacrificed in her own life to make yours better - Because, in the wise words of Jarvis, “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card.”
- Happy Mother’s Day
from the Progress 

Vote yes on SPLOST even with some misgivings

    On Tuesday (or before with early voting) Pickens County will be asked to continue the one-cent sales tax by the county and cities. The plan would see most of this money going to the area roads with lesser but not insignificant amounts being directed to the library and emergency services.
    We’d encourage our readers to give this a favorable nod on the ballot, though we advocate this with all the enthusiasm north Georgia shows for hockey and modern art. Yes, to continue the tax is the best choice, but it’s something we do regrettably.
    A yes vote will give the county some substantial sales tax dollars to remedy potholes, cracked pavement and dirt roads. All it takes is a drive around the county and you will swerve, bounce and rattle over the evidence of need. The “hump” that forced the Ga. DOT to close the bridge on Jones Mountain escaped notice of most drivers as it seems about typical for north Georgia roads.
    As explained by proponents of the SPLOST, the local sales tax cents are needed as the state no longer funds county roads like they once did. And that is true, but it’s not really a full explanation or excuse. The state didn’t one day suddenly stop letting the all pork fly. They began scaling back and our county and the city of Jasper (like many around the state) failed to adapt, simply throwing up their hands and saying roadwork is just too expensive.
    Local leaders have yet to propose any plan that might have staunched the asphalt decay or  prevent us from being back in the same situation when the SPLOST dollars expire in five years. The governing agencies didn’t seek cutbacks elsewhere, look for more effective ways to accomplish road maintenance or propose new ideas for raising revenue.
    So, we are at the point that our roads are crumbling and cracking – a process greatly accelerated with the long, cold winter’s freezing and thawing.
    We need to address our road problem right now by approving this sales tax. You would have to go back more than a decade, before Rob Jones was elected sole commissioner, to find a period of time where the county was not seeking or using a SPLOST. A one cent sales tax isn’t  noticed on a daily basis. If it were to fail on Tuesday, it’s hard to believe shoppers would rejoice over the savings – keep in mind you only get taxed an extra $1 for every $100 you spend.
    Even a $1,000 shopping spree at the Bargain Barn would only cost you an extra $10 for the SPLOST. (Of course, the schools also have a SPLOST in place as part of their general business plans.)
    Individually the sales tax doesn’t impose much burden, but when you accumulate that penny-per-dollar for all commerce inside the county borders on every retail purchase, it adds up to some  nice working funds. The courthouse was built with it; different schools have been built using sales taxes. The sales tax is a great way to fund things.
    It is disappointing to see the commissioners using the “special” sales tax to fund routine maintenance. The position of commissioner used to be called the “road commissioner” back in the old days, and that former title should give office-holders a clue on what voters expect as top priority: keep the roads in working order.
    The voters should trust the local road departments to see that this money is well used and, in exchange, the county and city leaders should respect what they are being given and plan on how to take care of it -- do not borrow against it or bow to vocal minorities on how it is spent.
    For this SPLOST we agree the poor roads must be addressed. But come back again in another decade and ask for more special monies for routine work without some evidence of permanent stewardship plans and we’ll have a different answer.

When did kids get so busy?

    This past weekend hundreds of kids attended the county recreation department’s opening day ceremonies for t-ball, baseball and softball. On average these sports will require those kids (and parents) attend practices each week and games on the weekends.
    But for many of those children their extracurricular activities don’t end there. Some are also taking karate (to help with their self control and concentration), voice or violin lessons (to develop their right brains), Boy or Girl Scouts (to foster a sense of civic responsibility), or one of the other plethora of choices arranged by the parent that will create the perfect, most well-adjusted child possible.
    Unfortunately, having your kid enrolled in multiple enrichment activities has become synonymous with being a “good parent.” This world-view posits that the best parents will sacrifice anything (even money they probably shouldn’t spend) to give their child every opportunity. What if our child is a tap dancing prodigy or the next Mozart, but because we don’t fork over $65 a month for lessons they never realized their potential? So here we go, signing them up for activities that change from year to year, and which can result in stress for both the child and the parent.
    This world-view also causes some parents (whether they admit it or not) to feel pressured into signing their child up for activities – if they didn’t they feel they’d be seen as a bad parent.
     Some studies say there is no such thing as the “overscheduled child,” but we disagree. Some kids are just way too busy to enjoy being kids. 
    One Psychology Today article goes into the life of Kevin, a boy who was on the verge of clinical depression because of his hectic schedule. When he spoke in private to the author Kevin said he missed time playing with his friends outside. When the author asked Kevin’s mother about his schedule and suggested a link between that and the depression she said he was crazy. Kevin loved the activities - and even though her own schedule was hectic she wanted to give him a “good childhood” because her parents never did anything with her.
    Beyond the potential for stress, overscheduling our children also inhibits their ability to be creative. John Cleese – the brilliant mind behind Monty Python - gave a lecture to a group of video students on the subject of creativity. In his lecture he outlined five basic requirements he found to be crucial for fostering individual creativity -- Space. Time. Time. (Yes, he listed it twice). Confidence and Humor.  Without having that downtime, he said, there is no time for our brains to relax into a mode of being creative.
    Speaking in the Psychology Today article, Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., a developmental and clinical psychologist and professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California, agrees.    "Middle-class children in America are so overscheduled that they have almost no 'nothing time,'” she said. “They have no time to call on their own resources and be creative. Creativity is making something out of nothing, and it takes time for that to happen. In our efforts to produce Renaissance children who are competitive in all areas, we squelch creativity."
     One part of the problem is that unstructured time is intimidating and uncomfortable for some, and the truth is our lives seem less trivial and more meaningful if our day planners are full. The harder truth is most of us wouldn’t know how to handle not being busy. How would we fill in the space?
    Fortunately, this incessant busyness is not mandatory– it’s something we’ve chosen and it’s something we can un-choose. We agree that these activities do teach things like teamwork and responsibility and they do develop skills parents can’t teach, but too much of a good thing is a problem.
    Our kids need strong relationships, not a relationship lived on rides in the car from fast-pitch lessons to baton. Let’s focus on our parent-child relationships and everything else will fall into place.