“Ask not what your city can do for you, but what you can do for your city”.
That, of course, is a paraphrased version of the very famous quote by JFK about patriotic duty. Or, in this case, civic responsibility.
This past week, Mayor Mel Norton published a post on his website (previously in the Telegraph-Journal) entitled Our Spirit of Resiliency, where he outlined where Saint John has been, where we are now and how we’re going to get to where we want to be. He called on the citizens of Saint John to pitch in, stating:
“We need you to ask yourself what you can do to foster this city’s ongoing renaissance. Look around you: others have obviously asked themselves that question and found inspiring ways to answer it. If you’ll forgive the pun, the ‘burning’ question now is: Have you?”.
Now, I know there has been some argument about whether Saint John really is a ‘Renaissance City’ and whether we should be using the term to describe our city. I don’t give a shit about all that. To me, it’s just semantics. What truly matters is: how do we make our community better? How do we improve quality of life for Maritimer’s and make this region a place where people want to live and investors want to do business. I can tell you this: we don’t make our communities better by sitting on our hands.
I know some of you out there are thinking: “Damn it! I pay my taxes and I vote, isn’t that enough? What more do you want from me, woman!”
And I think the answer to the question is no. No, it is not enough to simply live here, pay your taxes and go about the business of life. Don’t get me wrong, these things are very important! But in this economic climate, if we want more for our communities than struggling to keep their metaphorical heads-above-water, we need to do more.
I’m as guilty as the next person. I could do more, I know that I could. But it’s finding out how best to use your personal skills to help your community that is the real challenge. There are a multitude of ways to contribute to the health of our Maritime communities: from volunteering with non-profit organizations to supporting local businesses to participating in community clean-up days, just to name a few.
There are some people doing incredible things in Saint John that I draw inspiration from: People like Judith Mackin, Michelle Hooton, James Mullinger, the folks at Acre Architects and Third Space Gallery and more. These people are using their substantial creative talents to build something special in our city. I think if you look around your community, you will find similar, civic-minded individuals who love their community and want to see it succeed. And if you don’t, then why not be that person? Imagine what we could accomplish if we simply stopped our complaining and just got to work? We would see a very different Maritimes.
So in the future, I will be on the look-out for ways to contribute to the growth and success of my city. I hope you will too. And together we’ll build a better Maritimes.