Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963

In our book “The Story of Kennett” Joan Holliday and I wrote about how Kennett was organized to address the needs of its people. What we found was Kennett wanted each family to have a roof over their head, health care and they don’t go to bed hungry. This along with personal safety ensured that each person is on equal footing to achieve their potential and pursue happiness. It is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, only after the basic needs are met does a person have the freedom to work on their self-actualization.

This is the least we can do for our neighbors and what we must do. A key part of this design is to ensure each child is educated and able to develop the skills to hit the ground running as they leave home and take on the world. The result of this organizational design is the freedom of the individual to become the best that they can be. I guess this is what you call a level playing field. Some will be luckier than others, some more capable, but all will start out on equal footing.

Kennett is not about the distribution of wealth to the “unlucky” from the lucky. It is not about making everyone equally rich, but equally free to live their lives without the poverty of homelessness, hunger, and poor health. After that, it is up to the individual to take advantage of the great gift of life we have been given. So we don’t meet each other as rich and poor but as equals in this pursuit of happiness we are guaranteed by our constitution.

For this I thank the Kennett School District, LCH, the Kennett Area Senior Center, Library, KACS, Garage, Walk in kNnowledge, United Way, After the Bell, SNAP, Social Security, and all the people that make this life of hope happen.

Here are the concerns from Red Flag #4 in our book that addressed how the pursuit of freedom through equality of life is in jeopardy: “There is no consensus that poor people should be provided the support to live a decent life. In fact there is a sense by some that providing poor people help makes them dependent. Thomas Jefferson put into the Declaration of Independence the pursuit of happiness as an inalienable right. So we aren’t guaranteed happiness, just the chance to pursue it.

Money is not what gives us happiness, but without a certain amount of it, life is much less pleasant. Social data shows that after you get to a little over $70,000 in the US, depending on where you live, additional money does not provide more happiness.

Money per se does not provide happiness; at best it allows you to do things which can foster good relationships, earn respect, and are among the things you love to do. There is just no correlation with happiness and income after you hit $70k.

I think we can agree on the fact that a family that is below the poverty line, living on the street, going to bed hungry, not getting the medical help they need, is not living a very pleasant existence.

It is our belief that we can make Kennett a decent place to live, even if a family is living in financial poverty, by providing the services that cover basic needs, as well as exploring creative ways to build sustainability. And yes, there really is poverty. About 10% of the residents of the Borough live below the poverty line, 6 percent of Chester County and 12 percent of the state.

And that poverty line is about one-third of what it takes to raise a family well in Chester County.

In 2013, the number of students in the United States Public School system that were economically disadvantaged passed 51%. That number is 42% for the Kennett. The entitlements that support these kids, their parents and grandparents are under real threat. Entitlements must be part of our future. We’re the richest country in the world, but we’re sending kids to bed hungry. This is an example of a potential roadblock to making Kennett a great place to live for everybody.

There should be a consensus that poor people will live with a roof over their heads, enough food to eat, healthcare, and a first class education for their children. That is our dream and pretty much the dream of most of the people we have interviewed and talked to. I have observed over my life that it is cheaper to give people money than it is to build an organization to help them.

But a smart safety net can make sure every kid is kindergarten ready, parents are trained for the technical work that pays a sustainable wage, health care is a given and the community invests in people instead of writing them off.

These resources will pay for themselves over time and are affordable but there is no consensus that providing them is for the best. In fact many believe the reason we have so many poor people is because we make it too easy on them.”

In the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, Oxfam reported that the rich are growing richer and the poor poorer. In 2016 it took the top 61 richest people in the world to equal the same wealth as the bottom 3.8 billion. It is now 26 people. In 2018 the rich increased their wealth by 12 percent and the poor lost 11percent.

But more than that, the countries that do provide these basic services like Norway and Switzerland are significantly happier than the US. With Kennett families having a roof, full stomach, good health and security, we can be as happy as the best of them. And we will live longer.

Books may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Bob at georgert@gmail.com.

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