Building Things to Come

Building Things to Come - August 26, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Last year the National Film Preservation Board added 25 films to the National Film Registry. To be selected a film must be at least ten years old and must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Of the tens of thousands of movies that have been produced, as of this time, only 725 films have made the Registry.

One of the films selected in 2017 was the 1989 fantasy-drama sports film, Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster, in his final role. The movie leads viewers through troubled relationships, financial struggles and unattained goals all tied together with a nostalgic dose of Baseball, America’s Favorite Pastime.

Ray Kinsella, Costner’s character, his wife Annie and their daughter Karin, follow their hearts, persevering through ridicule and near financial ruin, ultimately converting a part of their corn field into a baseball diamond, complete with stands. Along the way, each time that discouragement had threatened to stall the project, an encouraging sign or mystical motivation spurs them forward.

The theme of the movie, its byline and Ray’s motivation was based on the phrase uttered by Shoeless Joe Jackson, "If you build it, he will come." The “he” that Jackson referred to was Ray’s father. Ray succeeded in attaining a goal that fulfilled a lost opportunity.

In 2018, across Oklahoma, the economic condition of most communities outside the two largest urban centers ranges from struggling to dire. Many face the loss of medical providers, medical facilities and ambulance services. Others simply have no sales tax base to sustain the services that directly equate to quality of life.

While the allure of Oklahoma City and Tulsa is to many every bit as tempting as a mythological siren song, given a choice, most Oklahomans would prefer to raise their families in a less urban setting.

It is difficult to drive through a non-urban community anywhere in Oklahoma where men and women are not working hard to find ways to slow or stop the loss of population. Invariably, they face a dauntless task. Communities and community minded organizations are discovering that it is not the job of the grey-haired group to identify needed services and infrastructure. It is their job to FUND the services and infrastructure that is identified by those who are much younger than they.

Enrolling youth is not always easy, but it is essential. Most of us over the age of 40 have no idea what will keep young people in our communities over the next 50 years and most of the population under the age of 40 have no financial means to pay for the services and infrastructure that the next generation will utilize.

The synergy of each group finding their places, one as planners and the other as funders, will bode well for Oklahoma for generations to come.

For instance, the Oklahoma Municipal League is launching a new program to engage citizens. The Young Elected Officials Network will connect Oklahoma’s municipal elected officials under the age of 40 through networking events, specialized training, and policy development and thus empower its members to implement a shared vision into reality.

Each and every group, community, civic club and other organization should follow suit. What better way to engage youth than following their leads and ideas toward tomorrow. “Let them plan it, and they will stay.”  

Questions or comments, call or write David Perryman at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.