From the Superintendent’s Desk
All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine. — Jim Rohn
—by Matt Patton
With the passing of Rich Olive last month, I read several newspaper articles and heard numerous stories about this beloved and influential community leader. While I only had the privilege of knowing Rich for a couple of years, he made a distinct impression on me. In that short time, I got to witness first-hand the fine qualities that so many wrote and spoke about at the time of his death. He was more than just a fun-loving businessman and state senator. He had a meaningful impact on our community over many decades. He was a progressive thinker, a bridge-builder, and a true believer that if we work together we can accomplish great things. From a military commitment to countless volunteer positions, his unselfish service to something bigger is a powerful legacy.
As I read the obituaries and talked to people who knew Rich well, I couldn’t help but contemplate the significant impact he had, and found myself asking the question, how does a community replace a Rich Olive? Obviously, we can’t replace Rich, he was one of a kind. Nor should we try. Maybe the better question is, how does our community continue to move forward without Rich’s influence? Who will fill his shoes and help us dream big? Who will get the right people in a room and facilitate needed conversations? Who will challenge our thinking to be more than we already are? Who will encourage us to embrace change when our nature is to resist it? These are tough questions, and an individual who can fill all of those roles for a community comes along once in a lifetime. Rich was that person.
The answer to these questions, for me at least, is that we ALL need to step up and take on more of these roles. We need to accept the responsibilities that Rich so willingly carried for so many years. We honor Rich by doing so, and we begin to build our own legacy in the process.
More than a year ago now, Matt Soderstrum gave me a book by Rod Olson titled, The Legacy Builder. It is a great book. I revisited it this past week. I read it the second time not reflecting on my own legacy, but instead considered it from the perspective of our collective legacy. There is no doubt that each generation has sacrificed to provide the next generation with a better life. Nowhere is that more evident than with the early settlers of our country and in the World War II generation. In fact, the World War II generation sacrificed so much, and had such an impact on making the world a better place, they are now known as the greatest generation.
My grandpa was part of this greatest generation. While he didn’t serve in the military, he clearly sacrificed for most of his life doing physically demanding work in a coal mine, and later in an industrial factory, to provide his family with a better life. He did all of that while successfully running a family farm and finally managing to pay it off shortly before he died at age 79. There is no doubt that he left the world a better place than he found it, and that he sacrificed much in the process.
Each generation has that burden, to leave the world better than we found it. Rich did that. My grandpa did that. The greatest generation did that. Will our generation honor those who came before us by doing the same? What will our legacy be? That is for us to determine.