OpEd - We are all running in some way

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I recently decided to start running. Figuratively, and literally. Not only am I running in the election for Phoenixville’s School Board, but I decided to start training for a 5K. I even bought myself a pair of great running shoes at our newest shop on Bridge Street, All Kinds of Fast. And after last week’s Phoenixville Food Festival and Restaurant Week, wow did I need to do some running!

But there is one place I can’t run, Valley Forge National Park. A key location in the founding of our country, and now, we aren’t allowed to set foot in the place where many of our soldiers lost their lives during the effort to gain our independence.

And don’t we all feel like that sometimes? Haven’t we wished we could shut down our office or a store when we don’t like the service? Of course we know we can’t. We realize how wrong it would be to deny everyone just because of our personal unhappiness. I mean, I can tell you, there are days I’ve dreamed of shutting down Valley Forge. Why? Well, living here you develop a love-hate relationship for the park.

We love going for walks and bike rides, seeing it change with the seasons, going to annual reenactments, enjoying dinner with Martha Washington, or a fall story time bonfire, a cocktail party with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. And we love the 4th of July Community Picnic and annual reading of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson. Yes, we love living this close to a much loved National Park.


But then there is the dark side of living on the other side of a National Treasure. And no, it’s not having Nick Cage show up. It’s the tourists. You know the drivers who think Route 23 is a “park road” and who stop to take pictures of deer. Or the people out for a Sunday ride who don’t realize we just want to get home. Or the joggers who prefer the road to the jogging path, keeping us all waiting to pass. And then there are the ticks. Living this close to the Valley Forge National Tick Farm is not always a joy in the summer. So yes, there are challenges to living in our little slice of Paradise.

But living near a National Park is a great experience. And I’ve been wondering, what is this shutdown meaning to those who are most likely to use our National Historical Parks this time of year. What does this do to our students? What is happening to the field trips? How do we replace the experience of walking in the room where our Founding Fathers argued and debated? What are teachers telling their students about why they can’t see where our government started because our government won’t pay its bills? How can we teach about Democracy when ours is so dysfunctional it is shut down?

I think this is an amazing teachable moment. I’d love to see our students taking part in conversations on the debt ceiling, ACA and budget debate. Let them hash it out and tell us what they think in their hashtag laden social media speak. After all, they are the ones who are going to be most impacted.

Let’s give our students the tools they need to be well-informed and engaged citizens. One of the ideas I would love to present if elected is to have History taught in the order it happened. I believe we do our students a disservice by teaching history piecemeal and out of context. I’d like to see us have community forums and discuss ideas on how to improve our schools and how we can make them more efficient and effective centers of learning.

After all, isn’t this why we are all running? We keep running on this wheel of life, hoping to make an impact, to bring our ideas and experiences to our communities and help improve them. As citizens we are engaged in this great experiment, in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

We are running our lives. Running our country. Running our businesses, our homes and our schools. We are all running something in some way. And it is time for us to remember, this is a relay, not a race. We are here to help each other succeed. We are not here to beat each other. We are not here to cheat and push our way to the front. We only win if we all help each other finish the race.

I’m looking forward to running my first 5K this year, and to running my first campaign for school board. I hope many of you will come out on November 5th and let me know if you’re ready to join in the run.

Lisa Longo