As a native Fresnan, I am finding that one of the privileges of entering my 10th decade of life is that of meditation.
To dwell upon memories of the Great Depression of the ’30s, the worldwide turmoil of the ’40s, the optimism of the ’50s, and the hopes and disappointments of the years that followed are but a preamble to reflecting upon my dreams for tomorrow.
Let me share a few memories with you, gathered over a span of 90 years.
There are a few of us who can remember when streetcars rumbled down Fulton Street.
There are a few of us who can remember when Fresno State was at the site of the present Fresno City College.
There are perhaps fewer of us who can remember when Highway 99 ran through the city of Fresno on Broadway.
There are even a few of us who can remember when all of our movie theaters were downtown.
Out of these dwindling numbers are those of us who can also remember our public heroes, many of whom we still honor today. It was these distinguished leaders who inspired many of us to dedicate a portion of our private lives to community service.
Sharing opportunities to return a portion of one’s time and resources with the under-educated, those in poor health, the unemployed, or the incarcerated became an unwritten but acceptable mandate in our own lives and that of our families.
So let us transition from memories to dreams.
It is important we recognize the outdated memories pathway to solving regional issues. The memories thinking was that if the private sector cared about something, the public sector should make that problem go away.
Our early citizen heroes gradually made us more and more aware that caring alone was not enough to bring about lasting change. There were no “one size fits all” solutions to our social and economic problems.
Today’s challenges cannot be met that way if we are to attain our dreams for tomorrow. Leadership is becoming a form of partnership where everyone must take ownership for their part because each of us is a vital part of the undertaking.
As the years of my life have passed by, I have discovered that those who dream understand that solving community problems is a very complex process requiring one to learn, reflect and listen to a broad range of people from many disciplines. These community stakeholders must agree that the composition of change-agent assemblies needs to include private, public and nonprofit entities who each commit to work in a spirit of harmonious cooperation.
Historically existing moat-surrounded castles are no longer an acceptable structure from which to reach out to transformation-minded partners. Ultimately transformation will be built upon the increased collaboration upon which our dreams for tomorrow will be identified, sought out and attained.
Just to name a few, think about a bustling Fresno metropolitan center. What about a network of urban-rural hiking trails, bike paths and parks? How about an educational system that ensures all graduates are prepared for a productive career?
Those of us who are walking down the back side of our individual mountains invite all to participate in leaving their footprint upon the pathway to making dreams for tomorrow become treasured memories of yesterday.
Richard A. Johanson is chair emeritus of the Fresno Business Council and founder of Johanson Transportation Service of Fresno.