Optimism, please, in 2020

Johnson City Press • Dec 29, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Twenty years have passed since Americans were stockpiling bottled water, canned goods and batteries while bracing for the “Y2K” apocalypse that never materialized. Some were even bunkering down in shelters.

It was all because two-digit timekeepers on computers might mistake the 00 in 2000 as 1900, thus sending banks, hospitals, pharmacies and even the U.S. power grid into chaos.

But when the ball dropped on New Year’s Day, Y2K fizzled, and many were left with lifetime supplies of paper towels and toilet paper.

The hysteria seems a bit quaint in retrospect. We’d like to think we learned a lesson in optimism from that experience, as we have weathered much greater storms in the two decades since.

Of course, both our nation and our region have challenges, but they, too, shall pass.

The political divisions in this nation present plenty of reasons for pause, but history tells us our diversity in culture and opinion ultimately will be our greatest assets. Regardless of the spiteful rhetoric buoyed in Washington and Nashville, change will come for the better. It may take a few election cycles, but something will emerge to unite us.

In Tennessee in 2020, we must hold Gov. Bill Lee to his promises to reform high school education for job readiness and reform the criminal justice system with more education, training and experience to reduce recidivism among felons.

The newly dubbed Appalachian Highlands is in a period of economic stagnation, but for the first time since the effort to bring a medical school here in the ’60s and ’70s, there’s a regionwide recognition that cooperation is the only way out of that hole. In 2020, we expect concrete organization, specific goals and progress toward results. The talk must begin to walk.

And here in Johnson City, leaders should be able to capitalize on the momentum built in downtown’s revitalization, the Model Mills project, the West Walnut Street Corridor plan, the Boones Creek development district and East Tennessee State University’s nearly completed performing arts center.

There’s no shortage of energy here. Let’s use it wisely in 2020.

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