In early March, I was asked to make a few remarks to those gathered at the annual gala of the Independence School District Foundation. I have been the president of the foundation the past two years and anyone who knows me well knows that I have a passion for kids in the Independence School District. Of course, I have blue and gold in my veins because of my love for William Chrisman, and have been closely connected to that school for the past 20 years.
Dale Herl, the superintendent of the district and a good friend, introduced me to the 400 gathered at the Midland Theater as the No. 1 cheerleader for the Independence School District, which I appreciated. As I began my remarks, I told the audience that after I joined my current law firm 19 ½ years ago, one of my partners who lives in Lee’s Summit, wanted to know when I was going to move to Lee’s Summit. I was thinking that might be a qualification for being in the firm, but I knew better because my other partner at the time was also a loyal supporter of the school district. I told my partner that the devil would be having snowball fights before I moved out of Independence.
I have never strayed far from home. I lived at my parents’ home during my 8 1/2-year journey to become a lawyer and my first house was a cottage on the southwest corner of Union and College on the same block as my parents’ home. I attended kindergarten in this cottage-style home and have memories of finger painting and naps. I bought the house from the school district and totally remodeled it.
I lived there for five years when the house two doors to the south became available, and so I moved to the stone house on Union, again on the same block that l occupied until October of last year.
When my mother passed away after living 67 years in the house I grew up in on Waldo Avenue, my siblings agreed that I should buy the house. I now live in my third house on the same block, which I anticipate will be my last. I have lived on the south and east side of Bryant School my entire life. Thus, there is little danger of me moving to Lee’s Summit.
It is an exciting time to live in the Bryant neighborhood. It was a great place to grow up as many young families lived in the neighborhood. My parents made their contribution with eight children and the Sterrett family lived next door, also with eight. The neighborhood has undergone a renaissance with several young families moving in nearby. Of course, seven of those young children are related to me, which is even more exciting. Houses sell quickly in the Bryant neighborhood.
One of the reasons I cheer so loudly for the Independence School District is the diversity in the district. It is different than when I attended Chrisman 48 years ago, but the difference is good. Of course, the number of free and reduced lunch children in the ISD is considerably higher than comparable districts in Eastern Jackson County.
I realize we don’t like to talk about these statistics, so I like to emphasize the marvelous achievements of the ISD. The district is a pioneer in so many different programs, and it is always striving to find new ways to reach and teach the students who show up to school in August. Enrollment keeps rising, especially in western Independence, so the word on the street must be that you can get an excellent education in Independence. The facilities are as good as any affluent school district.
The theme of my remarks in March was to encourage people to get involved in the lives of the students in the district. I used the Bears Tomorrow program we started a dozen years ago to profile a couple of our graduates who have funded their education with basketball skills. A primary goal of Bears Tomorrow was to increase the competitiveness of our athletic teams, especially in basketball. That the boys basketball team, filled with alumni of our program, advanced to the quarterfinals of the state tournament last spring is a testament to the success of our program. Another goal of the program was to give an opportunity to those who otherwise would not have the opportunity to compete in the developmental years.
Thus, at one point in my speech, I made the statement that I have a core belief that opportunity should not depend on where you live or who your parents are. Thus, we need to give a hand up to those who have the same hopes and dreams as children of more affluent families. As soon as I made the statement, the audience began cheering, so I knew that everyone present felt the same way.
As I listen to the rhetoric in the presidential campaigns about tax cuts for the wealthy and socialist programs of the Democrats, I fear that we will lose our focus. I don’t like handouts more than anyone else, but shouldn’t we strive to make sure every child has an opportunity to pursue his or her dreams? That has been my mission for the last 12 years and I hope to continue in that effort for the rest of my life. Spare me the rhetoric.
– Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence, www.wagblaw.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org