Sept. 11, 2008, marked the kickoff when Ames joins thousands of other communities, states, nations and organizations around the world recognizing
11 Days of Global Unity.

Sept. 11, 2001, is a date etched in the memories of every individual in Ames and around the world. Most of us can still recount the exact moment we learned the stabbing news piped from the East Coast within seconds. A sad new chapter in world history had been born.

Reactions varied from fear to hate to disbelief to helplessness to forgiveness. That week, I joined the stunned Ames community as we wandered from one candle light service to another – joining people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds coming together in stunned silence to contemplate the new world scene. The words of the refrain that still stick with me from that week were, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Now we ask ourselves where we are seven years later in following that direction. How have we translated this on the neighborhood and community level right here
in Ames, Iowa?

In this academic community, we are a long way from being able to give ourselves an A+. But as the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill reminded us, “All politics is local.” Thus, that elusive peace on earth must begin here at home.

What challenges do we face in making this a reality?

While we are proud of having been noted in recent months nationally by Money Magazine, Mother Earth and AARP, we must also recognize that we have significant challenges.

While our community has been acknowledged as one of the top places to retire, we are first and foremost a community that welcomes thousands of new 18-year-olds each fall. Their launching a new chapter of living independently from their families can indeed test local neighborhoods while simultaneously bringing our year-round residents an exciting infusion of activities and intellectual stimulation that is absent in most communities of 50,000.

All 50,000 of us need to be constantly reminded that being “One Community” doesn’t just happen. It takes effort on everyone’s part.

More recently, Ames has been part of a nationwide trend of mobility introducing us to people who have historically not enjoyed the benefits of middle class economic status, good education, safe streets and small town amenities.

The recent Inclusive Community Task Force performed an extensive self-exam-ination and recommended a host of areas where we could be more welcoming. This challenge requires constructive efforts for each of us – long term residents – as well as new.

Superimposed on this is an energized call to action to make Ames a community in which our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same clean water, breathable air, ease of transportation, which have beckoned people to Ames for generations.

And in order to maintain the amenities we have always known in Ames, we need to grow but grow with an environmentally sustainable conscience. And, I would add, that we need to grow with a conscience for the ascetics of every neighborhood and shopping area.

All these challenges cannot be met without jolting ourselves, as individuals, out of our own comfort zones and doing our bit toward sustaining our neighborhood, community and planet for future generations.

So, again, I remind myself, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Contributed by Ann Campbell, Mayor, City of Ames