Bridging America's Urban-rural Divide Will Strengthen Country

The divide between rural and urban America may be one of our most stubborn challenges. The schism between the educated, technological elites who move seamlessly among cities like New York, Seattle and Dallas and the working-class Americans who remain in the small towns of the South, West and Midwest are based in different visions of the economy, mobility and career. I saw this on display in a short 48-hour span this summer. One evening I watched the graduation ceremony for the 2017 class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars, a program shared by the presidential centers of Lyndon Johnson, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. These working professionals represent remarkable cultural diversity and modern service economy careers. Their jobs, such as social impact officer for a hospital and chief creation officer for a banking group, require them to think innovatively, focus on community and use the problem-solving skills that today's economy prizes.Two days later, I was part of my church's family mission trip to southeast Oklahoma. A declining birth rate since the heydays of the 1970s and 1980s has challenged the region we serve and resulted in a greater percentage of seniors than young people ages 18-24. The sluggish environment could be seen in the hollowed-out main street of the largest town. It also was reflected in the 25 percent of residents who live below the poverty line.   Continue reading...

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