“All great change begins at the dinner table.” That’s one of my favorite quotes from President Ronald Reagan. The birth of this country did not begin in the halls of government, rather in the minds of common men, born with vision, determination and a commitment to a higher calling. That’s how it is with many of our nation’s greatest accomplishments. Common people, like you and me, working together toward one goal, one vision and one dream.
Nearly three weeks have passed since millions of Americans watched Diane Sawyer’s Hidden America: Children of the Mountains. The eyes of the world once again focused on Eastern Kentucky, and once again the images were all too familiar. The special focused on our poverty, drug abuse and tooth decay. Many in our region were offended, even angered. Children of the Mountains sparked controversy and discussion. It is that debate that I want to focus on this week. “All great change begins at the dinner table.” The images we watched on 20/20 have certainly been the topic of conversation over every dinner table and lunch counter across this region. Our television station was flooded with phones calls, emails and comments on our website. Our newspapers were filled with Editorials and Letters to the Editor. Everyone has an opinion. The question now is, “What are we going to do about it?”
The time to talk about our future is now. But talk is cheap. This solution requires action. And where will the solution come from? It will come from within. We are the solution. You and I! We are the ones that will have to take action. We can not rely on Washington or Frankfort to correct this problem. Let’s be honest, they’ve had decades to correct it and it hasn’t happened. The answer lies within the beauty of this region and within each one of us. We are the problem and we are the solution.
I’ve invited ABC’s Producers to come back and show the real “Hidden America,” the part of Appalachia the rest of the world has never seen. Let’s open their eyes to the scenic beauty of our mountains, our culture, our heritage, our music and our people. I hope they return to showcase some of our successes. In the meantime, there is work to be done.
I want to thank everyone who commented on the previous post and related stories. You raised some valid points and offered thoughtful insight which can be used as a foundation for our progress. In closing I want to share several columns from around our region. I think you’ll find these articles both interesting and challenging.
As always, thanks for making WYMT-TV your source for news and information. We appreciate your trust.
God Bless America!
WYMT Mountain News
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What I Have Learned About Poverty
by PAT BRYSON
We all have an opinion about what we watched on 20/20. We bring to the table unique experiences that influence our opinions about poverty. As I get older, I realize that I know very little about anything, and I think that we usually really understand only those things that we have experienced.
Poverty is a subject that I believe I know something about. I have worked for many years with indigent children and their parents. As a child, I, too, would have been placed on the free lunch/at risk roll, had there been such in the 40s. As an adult, I have spent lots of hours studying the subject, and I have related closely to many people, especially young mothers who have worked diligently to try to step out of poverty. Even then, I don’t pretend to know what it feels like to live in the kind of hopelessness that Shawn Grim came from; I believe that he is a hero for even daring to have a dream, a goal, of playing college football. Shame on those at the school and in the community, especially coaches, teachers and fans associated with the high school and college football programs, if they did not try to under gird him with what he needed to succeed. The deprivations and lacks in his upbringing are monumental and impossible to overcome alone. He needed a mentor (a life coach) to explain to him how to function in this new world; he needed much encouragement and help with his study habits and his studies, and he needed proper clothing and spending money in order to get along socially. He needed much more than a scholarship. I pray that he is getting that kind of help now.
There were people in my life, including my parents, who gave me opportunities, trips and experiences that enabled me to feel normal. I was very fortunate that some parents of my school friends bought tickets and took me places such as “Holiday on Ice” and the circus. My parents read to me and talked to me about important events in history and what my future could hold. What is the child from a situation like Shawn’s supposed to do when the teacher on the first day of school smiles and says, “Write two paragraphs about your vacation this summer” or to whom is he to take the big supply list that is given at the beginning of the school year now or to get the bags of chips or cookies that “everybody” brings to parties?
Read more CLICK HERE
Deal with Roots of Region’s Problems
by John Henson
ABC spent some time Friday patting itself on the back for helping bring positive changes to the sections of eastern Kentucky featured in last week’s “A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains.”
The “20/20” follow-up report said the Inez girl in one of the segments received the Hannah Montana boots that she mentioned wanting last week, and a dentist was providing dental work for her mom.
It was good to hear that former Johnson Central football star Shawn Grim had accepted an offer from Union College to resume his football career and receive an education.
Since the program aired last week, Grim had received scholarship offers from Union College, University of the Cumberlands, University of Louisville and Pikeville College, according to a story in the Ashland Daily Independent.
The part of the follow-up show I liked best was the interview with Gov. Steve Beshear, who said that stimulus funds would be approved to help the region with water projects and new roads.
I was in Frankfort earlier in the week with several members of the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce transportation committee to talk with legislators about road priorities for our county, which I’m convinced has the greatest needs and has been the longest ignored in Kentucky.
Read more CLICK HERE
Outsiders looking in
by Samantha Swindler
— “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”
— Flannery O’Connor
The eyes of millions of viewers who tuned in or TiVoed Diane Sawyer’s 20/20 piece “A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains” were upon Appalachia last week. Undoubtedly, if you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard about it.
The responses were widespread and mixed. Some Kentuckians were disgusted and embarrassed, saying it perpetuated negative stereotypes.
Others said it showed a social problem the majority of Appalachians ignore.
The first time I watched it — I am, admittedly, a Mountain Dew drinker — I questioned the seemingly disproportionate amount of time spent on the evil of “Mountain Dew Mouth,” as if all the dental problems plaguing this area could be pigeonholed to simply an addiction to a particular brand of pop.
“Might as well blame Ale 8 and moon pies, too,” I thought.
Read more CLICK HERE
Poverty is not unique to Appalachia
by Shirley Caudill
— Diane Sawyer’s “A hidden America: Children of the Mountains” portrays the lives of some of the poorest people in the Appalachians. And although I respect her as an upstanding journalist, I take offense to the fact that television always comes to the mountains of eastern Kentucky when it wants to write such a documentary to make it appear that this problem is unique to Appalachia.
It is NOT.
The reputation has traveled around the world — when I was in Germany they were surprised that I had shoes.
Read more CLICK HERE
Documentary, follow-up on children of Appalachia didn't go far enough, but could help; journalists have a role
by Al Cross
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
Documentary and follow-up on children of Appalachia didn't go far enough, but could help; journalists have role to play
The ABC documentary “A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains” and its short follow-up stirred a lot of talk in Central Appalachia this month. But what action will ensue? That is the question the people of the region, and their journalists, need to answer. For a commentary by the Institute director CLICK HERE
20/20 visits Appalachia
by Chuck Owens
ABC News' 20/20 and native Kentuckian Diane Sawyer just completed another ad nauseam addition of "Let's explore the unfortunate hill people, their sordid ancestry, and dental problems." Like most of the other documentaries since the early 1960's only a few things have changed. The hillbilly wooden shacks are replaced with dilapidated trailers, the junk cars are no longer just Fords and Chevys, but now include a few imported models, and the trashed plastic food containers scattered over grassless yards are printed with labels warning of high fat content.
One might ask when the last expose' will be filmed, edited, and shown about our homeland. It is always a good place to go for a story, so the answer is probably never. On the other hand, it is a good place to observe what socialism, in the name of government assistance, has done to a once proud people.
Read more CLICK HERE