Are we “Citizens” or just “Residents”?

Dale Schaefer

Dale Schaefer (LL '13), vice president and market manager, Main Line Broadcasting

by Dale Schaefer, Leadership Louisville Class of 2013 —

Kentucky Lieutenant Governor and former life-long Mayor of Louisville, Jerry Abramson, posed this question to us and, symbolically, to all the people of Kentucky during our lunch at the Governor’s Mansion.  Lt. Governor Abramson went on to describe the difference between the two: simply put, he said “Citizens” are people who take pride in their state and neighborhoods by getting involved to help make it a better place to live.  “Residents”, on the other hand, are people who live in the state, take what the state and community offers them, but do little or nothing to improve the living conditions of those around them.

If you will, citizens are the “givers” and residents are the “takers” we see in every walk in life.  The Lt. Governor’s question stayed with me throughout that night and right up to the moment I am writing these words, some 48 hours later. It has remained in my conscience because sometimes I think I take more than I give on a daily basis.  It is not that I don’t want to give or help others, but I spend a lot of hours working each day to please my employer and make money for my family so we can enjoy the finer things in life. It is a very selfish motive, but I am sure I am not the only one in this Leadership Louisville class guilty of it.

Deep down, I know you and I are truly not chronic takers, but in fact, real givers.  So if we want to be known as good citizens, what else can we do to give back to our community?  It will be something different for each of us, so we will need to examine our own conscience, wallet or calendar to determine what we can do for our community.

At his inaugural address, over 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy challenged us when he said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  While a lot has changed since Kennedy’s presidency, some things are still very much the same.  Our country and our government are still about the People…the citizens who look out for one another and the well being of our great nation.

As citizens of Kentucky in the United States of America, let’s do our part each day to keep this nation great with bold actions that make a difference in at least one person’s life.  If your actions affect dozens or even thousands that’s even better, but do something today that clearly shows you are a citizen and not just a resident of this state and this country. Let’s leave our mark on this city, a mark that shows the Leadership Louisville Class of 2013 truly made a difference.