The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 27, 2008

Opinions

Down the Roadside Path

It was Tuesday morning, June 17, sometime around 8:30, before the start of the school day, when parents and children were seen heading up Bedford Road towards the Carlisle School. This was the designated “Walk to School Day” that the Pathways Committee and the School had promoted. As Nancy Shohet West, a parent of a third grader and a kindergartner living off Bedford Road, described the scene, “It looked more like Halloween.” A group of students who did not live near a footpath were encouraged to assemble at Kimball Farm and join the walk with students who live on or near the Bedford Road footpath.

Earlier that same morning, seventh-grader Alana Rhodin of Oak Knoll Road joined her friend Susannah Krapf of Ice Pond Road to walk down East Street, partly on the road, and then on to the East Street footpath which begins at Partridge Lane. “It was difficult walking on the road which has two blind curves,” recalled Krapf. “You get paranoid when cars come so close and there is poison ivy along the way. Once we were on the path we felt so much safer. I think this is a great change for Carlisle and I plan to walk to school next year, until it gets too cold. A lot of kids are psyched about this,” she added.

“We encouraged everyone who could get to a path to walk,” said Pathways Chair Deb Belanger, referring to “Walk to School Day.” “Folks could drive their children to St. Irene church or Kimball’s or to a nearby friend’s and walk. The total ‘I walked to School’ stickers distributed at the toll booth at the school came to 435. Our goal was to get a total of 200 students walking and we nearly doubled that figure, with about half of the student population walking,” reported Belanger.

With two miles of footpath construction underway on four of the five major roads in town – Bedford Road, Lowell Street, East Street and Concord Street – it is not only the younger generation taking advantage of a safer way to get around. Just read Ernie and Ellen Huber’s letter to the editor in this week’s Mosquito (see Mail at right). Ellen Huber has been walking down East Street from Partridge Lane to the center of town for over 40 years. At last her friends can cast a sigh of relief, knowing she has a safe pathway to walk on. And on Concord Street, the day after the pathway paving was put down, a man using his walker was observed making his way along the path.

As Pathways Committee member John Bakewell sees it, the grid of four footpaths around the center of town, connecting to Trails Committee paths on conservation land and various neighborhood paths, is pulling the whole community together.

Keep at it Pathways Committee! We know there is a second layer of asphalt to be added to the paths, along with a final pebble surface. You have worked long and hard – 13 years – and you are doing a wonderful job for the people of this town.

The value of the dissenting voice

In the 1995 romantic comedy, The American President, Michael Douglas’s title character says, “America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, because it’s going to put up a fight. It’s going to say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil and who is…advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’…Then you can sing about the land of the free.”

I prefer to think of America as evolved citizenship. As Americans, we are not only accustomed to hearing opposition, we are raised on the notion that our most famous expression of dissent, a 232-year-old document known as the Declaration of Independence, is the very foundation of our nation. So that revolution would not continue to be the established mode of opposition, the founding fathers went on to construct a government that provided for public debate in the houses of Congress, dissenting decisions in the Supreme Court, and a series of checks and balances in all branches of government that would allow Americans to tackle issues from all sides in public. The idea was and is that allowing each voice the respect of a public hearing would make us more intelligent and reasoning people, and that we would be able to hammer out compromises and solutions that are the better for the exchange of information and opposing viewpoints.

Two hundred years after the Declaration of Independence, this sturdy system defines our American psyche. We practice it every day in state and municipal governments and by writing to our elected representatives, working on campaigns, writing letters to the editors of newspapers. We know that civil discourse is the richer for debate. We know that when each of us has a voice, and grants the voices of others the courtesy of hearing and consideration, we are safer and stronger together.

Here in Carlisle, we are fortunate to be able to practice public debate perhaps in its purest form. At our Town Meetings, any one of us may stand and express a position. In the public meetings of our town boards and committees, we expect each committee member to exercise the right and the responsibility to engage in public debate so that issues may be resolved with full disclosure of information and opinion. We reinforce this in our school by teaching civility, teaching our children to treat each other with respect and to work out solutions to their disagreements through the courtesy of discourse.

This is evolved citizenship, and for over two centuries, it has worked pretty well for us. Let us, therefore, keep our public discourse in good shape. This July 4, when we remember the signing of that treasured document of dissent, it may be a good idea to remind ourselves to value the dissenting voice again and to embrace it in our public meetings, our newspapers, our legislatures and our conversations.

 

 

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© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito