I spent about ten years of my professional life thinking, almost solely, about what Owensboro’s biggest challenges and assets are. While its challenges are constantly shifting, its greatest asset is a constant. Owensboro’s greatest asset is its people— and in these days of cynicism, anger and tense rhetoric, I cannot image a better competitive advantage for our community. Kindness, togetherness, and compassion— the traits I most associate with Owensboro’s people— are not antithetical to democracy or capitalism. Owensboro’s unique propensity for these traits allows our community to be an oasis in a world of gamesmanship and selfishness run amok.
I see kindness in the nearly three hundred women in Impact 100 who give of their time and finances to help fund new and powerful community initiatives and in the over one hundred young girls in Impact NextGen following the incredible example of their adult counterparts. I see togetherness in the regular “Fifth Saturday Breakfasts” designed to bring together men of all backgrounds for fun and fellowship. I see compassion in the brave work of Oasis as well as the noble mission of our growing number of homeless shelters whose employees and volunteers provide evenings of dignity for those most in need.
We do these things in Owensboro not because we are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, or Catholic or Protestant. We do these things because it is genuinely who we are. Unlike the many other ways we try to market our community to the rest of the world, our authentic desire for inclusion and goodness costs us nothing but our time, and gives us so much more in return.
From a practical perspective, however, in a world increasingly preoccupied with self and not the good of the other, a community like Owensboro stands out as an example of a better society. Sure, we have our shortcomings, but our actions demonstrate our genuine desire to be better than the selfish norms of the world.
There is nothing wrong with Owensboro exploiting our kindness and compassion for our own gain, as long as our gain is not the motive of our kindness. If these increasingly rare traits give us an advantage in attracting new families, new professionals, and new businesses, then so be it. I can think of worse strategies.
Like any good strategy, our attitudes toward others require our diligence and care to make sure that we never lose this unique advantage. These values are taught in the institutions we hold most dear— in our homes, in our churches, in our community centers and in our schools. These institutions all deserve our care and support to keep Owensboro an example of a community that does not need to be made great, but rather a community that already is.
So, I challenge our community to continue this strategy of kindness, togetherness and compassion so that others searching for an example of a better way of life and a better way to run a business can find the answer right here in Owensboro.
Madison Silvert is the President of The Malcolm Bryant Corporation, Past Chair of the Kentucky Association for Economic Development and member of the St. Louis Federal Reserve’s Real Estate Industry Council.