December 31, 2010

William Dunbar: Some resolutions for Merced

Good morning, everyone, and Happy New Year. Last year was pretty crazy, huh?

With new dormitories, displaced homeless, midterm elections and town-wide insults (to name a just few things), 2010 was certainly a wild year. And to commemorate it with a big send-off, we celebrated last night with loud noisemakers and louder music, cheap champagne and, of course, one big countdown to this brand new year of 2011.

But now, it's the morning after. We are firmly in 2011. Whether you're getting a little hair of the dog or removing the earplugs that got you to sleep amid the parties last night, you've got a clean slate for this year. What better way to use this opportunity than by making some New Year's resolutions?

I'm not talking about the resolutions to quit smoking, organize closets or lose weight -- though I could stand to lose a few pounds. I'm talking about large-scale resolutions, those that the city and university can strive for, that make us better off by the end of the year.

But let's stick with body image; more precisely, let's talk about this nasty image that our town has gotten from a certain Port-foolish study.

Much has been said that discredits the study and highlights our strengths, but whether we like it or not, the damage has been done. Many Americans now identify us as the least brainy town in America.

One of the first resolutions we should strive for in this brand new year of 2011 is changing this image. A daunting task, you say? Perhaps, but it is a resolution we can work on together using both our local ingenuity and sense of pride.

Every day, people in Merced find smart ways to accomplish things: Local dairies produced almost $1 billion for the county in 2010, despite rising feed costs. Beef cattle and chickens were also strong commodities in 2010 for our county. Local business people are finding ways to stay open and vibrant in these difficult economic times.

After working as a Maddy Institute intern for state Assembly member Cathleen Galgiani, I can assure you our local representatives are finding smart ways to help us, from high-speed rail advocacy to prison health care reform.

My suggestion is that we broadcast these things to the rest of the world. The paper could certainly use more stories.

And, of course, there are many amazing innovations coming out of UC Merced, as well as graduates.

The UC could certainly contribute to reshaping the image of Merced: it's called UC Merced because it's part of the town, right?

One of the biggest reasons for the placement of the university by the town of Merced was to help stimulate its growth, so why shouldn't it help spruce up its image as well?

Through this group effort between "gown" and "town" as it were, we can work toward improving the image of Merced, both in the eyes of others and in our own eyes.

On a personal level, after taking the Christmas tree out to the curb and taking down the decorations, find ways to enrich yourself during this new year. Pick up a good book, go out for a morning jog, or fix up some old appliance you've been meaning to restore; do anything to stimulate yourself, whether physically, mentally, psychologically or otherwise. A little self-improvement goes a long way.

And while you're at it, don't forget to do something to help your community. It can be as simple as smiling at someone in the local grocery store line or as big as finding some innovative way to create more jobs in our area.

Take pride in our community. And don't forget to tell folks from out of town about how great Merced is. That will make it a great new year all around.

William Dunbar is an economics major and Regent's Scholar at UC Merced.

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