Here’s a thought


It was among the poignant suggestions from one of the most memorable speeches of my time – Jim Valvano’s 1993 ESPY’s speech.

“To me there are three things everyone should do every day,” he said.

“Number one is laugh. Number two is think – spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”

Two Valley organizations – the Scottish Rite Masons and the Ohio Cultural Alliance – moved on in 2016 from epic chapters in Valley lives. The Alliance has called it quits, and the masons have merged into a smaller footprint in Canfield from its majestic former Youngstown quarters on Wick Avenue.

Both shared one trait that fed our Valley for decades.


It’s captivating to flip through decades of Vindy files to view all of the Wick Avenue activities. (I posted some on Vindy Facebook.) The gentlemen of this organization had an enormous impact on city activities and charity. They still work hard at it today, just with fewer members. In Ohio, membership in the masonic fraternity peaked at 285,000 members in 1959 and is at about 87,000 members today.

Pursuit of knowledge, culture and public participation are among their values.

The Ohio Cultural Alliance was the passion of retired YSU professor George Beelen. He agreed that the over-arching mission of what his group pursued does seem to be in shorter supply today, he said.

“[Society] has lost a lot of what we’ve done,” said Beelen on Friday. (He and his group’s final night will be featured in next Sunday’s Vindy.)

“Our events started at 6:30 p.m. But people would arrive as early as 5 – for discussion and community-building.”

Since 1986, the group has convened rich and diverse gatherings of as many as 300 local people to discuss places such as Iceland, Tibet, Cameroon, Turkey and more. They’ve also showcased simple difference-makers in our community.

Both of these organizations, while very different, presented thought, discussion, healthy exchanges and face-to-face discourse.

I think we need more of that today.

For many people today, a detailed talk is using up all 140 characters in a Twitter window. Our next president certainly believes in such. When he undressed an Indiana union boss this week, it was over Twitter and not over the phone.

When people do seek dialogue beyond those 140 characters, they run to Facebook.

“Click, click, click, click, .... Post.” And with that, they’ve spoken. Sort of.

Distinct from how we discuss is what we discuss.

Part of the dilemma of not talking enough is that we simply do not know enough.

Today’s elementary-aged kids are the second generation of households who live without a daily newspaper arriving at the door, nor are they watchers of the 6 p.m. local news. The parents themselves grew up as well without such an information habit.

Oh sure, we’re all connected to digital information. But such news – driven by our search histories, our friends, our previous posts, purchases, etc. – is all content geared for our likes and desires, and rarely feeding our general or local awareness.

That’s assuming, of course, that it’s real news. We’re awash in fake news. A Washington, D.C., pizzeria was shot up last Sunday by a man believing a fake-news-fueled lie that a Democratic child-sex ring was happening there.

How troubling it is that “normal” was when people fired shots because they heard voices. Today, shots get fired by news-reading citizens who cannot decipher fake reports.

For as much as we can know these days, and can know it phenomenally quickly, we don’t strive to know as much as our elders knew or as deeply as they knew.

Our elders took part in groups such as the cultural alliance and masons and Rotary and Kiwanis. They discussed and debated into each other’s eyes. They didn’t need craft beer, fantasy sports or cigars to lure a crowd.

There is some light, though.

The City Club of the Mahoning Valley is two events into their existence. Funded in part by the Raymond John Wean Foundation and founded by longtime Youngstown engagers Tim Francisco and Phil Kidd, the effort has twice gathered a few hundred folks to hear and talk about a current community theme.

It’s a great throwback to thought organizations of another era.

The group is digitally savvy enough that they could have created yet another Facebook community or some similar distant digital faux connection.

Instead, they worked hard to make it a human experience together in one room – eyeball to eyeball.

And that, was good thought.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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