Niagara Gazette

January 8, 2013

BRADBERRY: Looking back with pride, forward with hope

By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Assessing last year, planning the next, I wondered; do we spend too much time looking back at the “good ole days,” not enough appreciating the present and crafting the future?

Are we longing for a return to that time when everything was better, when the world and our beloved Niagara Falls was a thriving industrial giant, and a booming tourist Mecca at the same time; when this was an incredibly wonderful place to work, raise a family, go to great schools and churches; where our city parks and neighborhood playgrounds were absolutely safe, perfectly manicured, the streets smooth and spotless; where the corner stores, stocked with international aromas and delicious cultural flavors defined our diverse heritages, seasoning our unique position on planet earth as a beautiful wonder to behold, a perfect place to live?

Who wouldn’t want to live here?

America was a beacon; like much of the country, ours was a city filled with hope and promise, there were jobs, lots of them, the future looked bright, promising, gleaming with opportunity. It was a different time, not just for Niagara Falls, the whole world seemed to be on the verge of greatness because it was, we could feel it.

The future WAS bright!

Maybe that’s what makes the past seem like it was so much better; people were looking ahead, they had hope. Is that still the case?

Just think; by the time this year’s high school graduates were born eighteen or so years ago, all of the innovations and most of the technological advances that my generation rolled out were already here for them; the most impactful social networking products and devices introduced since they entered high school are instantly connecting them to the rest of the world, casting their attention forward, into the future with little or no desire to look back.

Born in 1995, they were just six years old when terrorists struck the World Trade Center, defining their reality which for those who grew up here in Niagara Falls also includes the ravages of economic decline from which many, if not most of their neighbors, friends and family have fled for what they believe to be greener pastures.

Except for a few history buffs and curiously inquiring minds, this generation is much more interested in looking ahead then looking back; for most, the future looks a lot better someplace else than does the recent past in Western New York.

The reality is, we may never be the same as we were in terms of the kinds of industry that once flourished here, but we sure can find our way forward and beyond if we focus on the successes of our past, and visualize the future in spite of the present.

I may be hallucinating, but I think we are poised to turn the corner, but to do it, we will have to start looking both ways; back and forward, incorporating the lessons we should have learned from the past with well thought out plans for the future.

The things that made Niagara Falls and Western New York great in the past are still here, alive and well.

That includes the spectacular beauty of our geology, the incredible opportunities that bordering the Great Lakes provides us: fresh water, energy, transportation, recreation and America’s largest trading partner, Canada!

Let us not forget either, the amazing roles that our Native, African, and European ancestors played here in shaping America and the world’s future; that part of our history must never be forgotten; it should be celebrated and used as a foundation upon which a clearer, brighter, and more hopeful future can be built.

As Confucius is credited with saying, “Study the past if you would define the future.”

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