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We recently shared with you some words and thoughts about Our Towns: A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America, by James and Deborah Fallows.

It chronicles their trips to 49 communities around America over a 4 year time period. They stopped at places large (Pittsburgh, Louisville, Fresno ) and small (Eastport, Maine; Ajo, Arizona; Chester, Montana).

His writings came from a perspective of experience in public policy and politics in Washington and beyond. She, trained as a linguist, had an eye at communities through their cultures. Together they provide an interesting blend leaving you yearning for more stops and more stories.

In addition to sharing travels, the authors provide us a summary at the end of their thoughts about what they saw and what they learned. Included is a checklist of 10 1/2 signs of civic success.

We here share with you one such sign – one dear to us:

4. America has a “story”, one that everyone understands, even if only to say that it’s a myth or a lie. A few states have their guiding stories – California as either the ever-promising or the sadly spoiled frontier, Vermont as its own separate Eden.

Successful cities seem to have their own stories, too…For many of the cities we visited, the civic story turned on the importance of strong local institutions: libraries, schools ,philanthropies, public arts projects, annual events. For a surprisingly large number – in the Rust Belt, in the South, in the Plains States, in non-coastal areas of the West – it involved an awareness of being dismissed or disdained in the world’s eyes, and thus being all the more determine to show what these people and this part of the country could really do.

As with guiding national myths, the question is not whether these assessments seem precisely accurate to outsiders. Their value is giving citizens a sense of how today’s efforts are connected to what happened yesterday and what they hope tomorrow will bring”.

The Fallows write that given the state of the national scene. it is these local story-makers and writers, “local patriots” who will make food things happen.

“..Until the country’s mood does change, the people who have been reweaving the national fabric will be more effective if they realize how many other people are working toward the same end”.

Local patriots indeed.

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