Community foundations, small-town pride are game changers for Greater Nebraska

22 Nov 2017

I am a child of the Great Plains. I grew up in Red Cloud, home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather. As a boy, I rode my horse to check the cows or eat mulberries from a tree. I knew I was loved by a large extended family and my hometown.

There were 23 kids in my kindergarten class, the same as my graduating class. I got to do everything: sports, music and 4-H.

As I grew older, I heard a troubling message from adults: “Your future is someplace else.” No one said those exact words, but the intent was clear. “You’re a bright kid with terrific prospects. We’ll see you for the holidays.”

How devastating. “We love you. In fact, we love you so much you should live somewhere else.” That’s no way to sustain a vibrant community.

Nebraska is terrific. Nearly everything and everyone works. We have great public schools, an engaged citizenry, safe communities and generous people. Nebraska is ranked as the nation’s fifth-happiest state. Nebraska has what people want.

Nebraskans know this. But too often, when a community member proposes a big idea, it is met with: “We can’t do that, we don’t have enough money.”

The truth is, we have an amazing abundance. In the next 50 years in Nebraska, over $600 billion will be transferred from one generation to the next. There’s always a transfer from generation to generation, as parents pass away and leave their estate to their children. But if the heirs no longer live where they grew up, the wealth leaves as well.

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