Eighty years ago, in the depths of the Great Depression, this community came together and did something remarkable.
By LEO E. MORTON
Special to The Star
In a time of limited resources, and limited hope, this community chose to be bold. This community chose to reach high. This community refused to settle for low horizons, meek visions and timid aspirations.
This community dared to be great.
In 1933, we created a university, which eventually became UMKC. We opened an art museum, today known as the world-class Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. And we created the classical music ensemble that eventually evolved into todays Kansas City Symphony.
Our community realized that bold steps were necessary to reverse the decline in our fortunes, that there was a future to be claimed, but not by the meek and fearful.
The Great Depression-era institutions our forefathers created sustain us and inspire us still.
Today, we have another opportunity to take bold steps to seize the future. Again, progress waits for those who dare to claim it.
The proposed Jackson County Institute of Translational Medicine is an exciting opportunity for this community. In terms of economic development, it represents the final piece in the decades-long effort to maximize the impact of the local bioscience revolution launched by the spectacular gift of Jim and Virginia Stowers in 1994, creating the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.
That will be more than just a boon to our economy. UMKCs medical research done in concert with our longtime partners, Childrens Mercy and St. Lukes Health System is focused on chronic health issues that impact large numbers of our citizens right here in Jackson County. We have a particular focus on illnesses that affect children and the elderly, and that often have a disproportionate effect on minority populations. These chronic illnesses take lives, cause human suffering and are extremely expensive to treat.
Thats in keeping with our urban service mission as a public university. UMKC exists to meet the needs of our community, particularly those who have nowhere else to turn. Through this institute, we can do an even better job of pursuing that mission.
We can make this region one of just a handful of communities in the world where a critical mass of talent, resources and opportunity establishes us as a contender for attracting the best and brightest clinicians, scientists and entrepreneurs in the medical field. Our local community will benefit from that pool of tremendous talent, which will provide world-class health care and access to clinical trials right here, accessible to all, including those unable to travel to distant cities for care.
Yes, this is a bold step. This proposal does not come without cost, without risk. Few things of value do. A yes vote on Question 1 on Nov. 5 is an expression of faith and confidence in our future.
Once again, let us dare to be great.
Leo E. Morton, of Leawood, is the chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.