Kansas Citians will likely celebrate this Thanksgiving Day with a sense of community satisfaction and some anxiety.
We live in a demanding and confusing time. The headlines are relentless, like a blast from a fire hose: Sexual harassment. Foreign interference in elections. Obamacare and tax policy. Gun massacres. Immigration, famine, war. Stand or kneel?
Our region is contending with plenty of difficult issues. Violence remains a sad, stubborn reality in parts of our community. Hundreds of our neighbors work every day to stop the bloodshed but have not yet cracked the code that can end the killing.
We cannot turn our backs on those challenges. Yet there are things that bring us together, and on this day, we can be thankful for them.
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▪ After 23 years in prison, a man convicted of murder in Kansas City, Kan., was cleared of the crime and released from custody in October.
In a show of uncommon grace, Lamonte McIntyre declined to criticize his captors.
“I’m all right. I’m happy, you know,” he said, breathing freedom after nearly a quarter-century in confinement. “I’m here thanking God. I’m thanking everybody who supported me and been here for me. It feels good. I feel good. I’m happy.”
▪ Kansas Citians have demonstrated remarkable faith in local government. In April, they approved an $800 million bond issue that will pay for better streets and sidewalks. They agreed to raise sales taxes to fund improvements on the East Side.
In November, voters overwhelmingly endorsed construction of a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport. They looked past a badly flawed selection process to place a firm wager on the city’s future.
▪ After years of erratic performance, the Kansas City Public School system seems to have stabilized. Test scores remain stuck below acceptable levels, but leadership appears engaged and focused.
In Kansas, parents demanded new accountability from school board members — while supporting legislators committed to quality education. They passed historic tax increases designed to rebalance the state’s budget and approach full funding of the classroom.
Work remains to be done, but the march to fix Kansas is underway.
▪ The region’s economy meanders, but the unemployment rate is half what it was just eight years ago. The region worked together to attract Amazon’s new headquarters. The effort may fall short, but the cooperative spirit is a template for similar endeavors to come.
These stories, and others, share a common theme. Each involves hard work by mostly anonymous people.
Lawyers and family members toiled for years to free Lamonte McIntyre. Passage of the airport and bond issue relied heavily on grassroots organizations and door-to-door contact, not slick television ads.
Teachers are working each day to make kids smarter. Coffees and town hall meetings gave Kansas legislators the backing for major reform.
New businesses pop up around Kansas City every week, providing jobs and energy in neighborhoods and downtown.
Politicians and community leaders remain relevant in the discussion. Yet on this day, we can be thankful for the thousands of our friends and neighbors who eschew headlines and public recognition in favor of building our region, one or two bricks at a time.
National politics will always matter. We cannot ignore President Donald Trump even if we wanted to.
Yet raging at Trump, or for him, stalls progress. The federal government may be dysfunctional, but neighborhoods must work, house by house, block by block.
And in Kansas City, increasingly, they’re working. They work every time a third grader improves her reading skills. They work when community clinics help the sick. They work when mothers and fathers insist on closing down dangerous homes or increasing the police presence on the corner.
We’re thankful for all of that. And we’re reminded of the lesson it teaches: Today’s dinner isn’t made possible by Uncle Hank, in the corner, bloviating about Trump.
It’s made possible by the farmers who provided the food, the grocers who prepared it and the people in the kitchen cooking the meal.
Thanks to them. And to you, for reading The Kansas City Star.