Civic engagement in America, as measured by things such as voter turnout, has been in decline. Trust in many of our institutions has been falling. One of the key endeavors of many local leaders around the country has been to create a more civically engaged citizenry to tackle community problems and build on opportunities to create more prosperous and equitable communities for the future.
The need for more civically engaged people is clear. But perhaps there’s another need in places like Providence as well. It may be heresy to say, but Providence could also use more people – and by more people, I mean community newcomers – who care much less about the civic environment.
This thought occurred to me during a visit to Providence two weeks ago. I lived in Rhode Island during 2012 and 2013, but here I am six years later still visiting the city from New York. Why? Because I like coming back to Rhode Island and like the people I met when I lived there.
Because I don’t live in Rhode Island these days, I don’t keep up much with all the news about it. So when I get off the train in Providence, all of the various controversies and challenges that loom so large in the local news aren’t at the top of my mind. Instead of thinking about the PawSox or the Providence pension problems or whatever, I’m instead thinking to myself, “Wow, this is place is looking great.”
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