Jacobs: Give while times are good
In just 10 months, North Dakota will be 125 years old. At least the state will be. The hills are older than that, about 10,000 years, the time of the glaciers. Likewise, the Red River Valley, another glacial impact. The oil that has made the state rich is even older than that, millions of years old, of course.
Oil has helped to make North Dakota more prosperous and more populous than it has ever been before. Likely, there’s more prosperity ahead, as oil production surges toward the million-barrel-a-day mark. Population growth is likewise almost certain as the state races to catch up with thus far and to prepare for development yet to come.
This is North Dakota’s moment.
Put as plainly as possible: Oil makes things possible. With revenue from oil, North Dakota can build the institutions and the infrastructure that will carry the state forward with and then past the age of oil.
Tremendous steps already have been taken. North Dakota has invested unprecedented sums in road building and education. We’ll emerge from the first years of the oil boom with a brand new Medical School on North Columbia Road here in Grand Forks.
Projects such as this are a good way to celebrate the state’s success.
But an anniversary should be more than a time for celebration. It also should be a time for reflection.
State officials were scheduled to present their plans for the anniversary observance on Monday in Bismarck but were pushed back a day because of the cold weather. Events will take place throughout the year, culminating on the actual anniversary, which is Nov. 2.
We’ll have to wait to see what the state’s historians and political leaders have in mind. Much emphasis will be on the past, of course. That’s the nature of anniversary celebrations. But the future can’t be ignored. There needs to be a discussion about how to spend the Bakken wealth, for example, so that prosperity is shared at home rather than exported elsewhere.
No one wants to diminish the state’s success.
The anniversary observance can be a time to capitalize on the boom — and not just through public spending. The state ought to be encouraging its new wealthy to step up their philanthropy.
Stabilizing existing public-spirited organizations and meeting new challenges can be an important part of the statehood celebration.
So this week’s kickoff for the statehood celebration should include a call for giving to build the state.
If we can do that, the 150th statehood anniversary will be an even greater cause for celebration.
Jacobs is the publisher of the Grand Forks Herald, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email him at email@example.com.