New leader offers potential for community

Published 8:50 am Friday, April 6, 2007

Have you ever watched the pendulum of a grandfather clock swing back and forth?

You know, just sit there and gaze at the bronze disk swishing effortlessly from side to side, without veering from its path.

There was such a clock in my family’s living room when I was growing up. Like a patient focused on a hypnotist’s pocket watch, I would fall into a sort of vegetative state watching that clock. Many times I would end up dreaming of far off places and exciting adventures.

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Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

In those moments of timelessness, all seemed possible. There were no obstacles. Everything was potential.

Indeed, I learned in high school physics that at certain moments in a pendulum’s swing everything is potential.

Watch the ball at the end of a pendulum if you have a chance. As it streaks from side to side, there is a moment when the ball approaches the top and stops.

In a split second before the ball starts to fall, everything is potential.

As it approaches the bottom of the swing, all the potential energy is lost until it makes its slow climb back to the top.

Much of life is like the pendulum of my family’s grandfather clock.

There are moments when life is filled with potential. The ball is a top, ready to fall. Everything is possible. Energy is stored, ready to be let go.

Then there are times when the ball is at the bottom. All the energy is released with nothing left, ready once again to make the climb — ready to gain potential.

Tuesday morning’s breakfast meeting with Alcorn State University’s new president George Ross was all about potential.

Leaders of the Natchez business community reached out their hands Tuesday to greet the future of Alcorn State University and the future of Southwest Mississippi.

For a split-second the ball at the end of Natchez’s economic pendulum was at the top — at the point of its fullest potential.

Like a pendulum, life is filled with few moments where possibility is at its fullest. And like life, that moment can happen in the blink of an eye before the ball starts it descent toward the bottom.

Tuesday’s announcement of Ross as the 17th president of Alcorn State University was that instantaneous moment where everything is possible for the university and for Natchez.

The breakfast at Monmouth was the first step for area leaders to capture that potential energy at its fullest.

In a time when the community is seeking out a quick fix to the area’s economic woes, many are looking to big industries and the promise of many jobs as the answer.

But haven’t we already learned that such promise is dependent upon the whims of the economy?

There once was a time when we thought companies like International Paper, Armstrong Tire and Rubber and Johns Manville would forever drive the area’s economic engine.

As the demands of the economy changed, those jobs slowly disappeared.

And in that time, one institution has remained tied to Southwest Mississippi — Alcorn State University.

As Ross shook the hands of our community leaders, I couldn’t help think that maybe this is the person who could help bring lasting prosperity to Natchez.

In recent years, I have visited many college towns including Starkville, Oxford, Tuscaloosa, Ala., and others. Each has played a crucial role in the vitality of its corresponding town.

In fact, it is hard for me to think of a college town that does not prosper from the vitality, creativity and economic prosperity that their universities offer.

The same could happen for Natchez. All our leaders need to do is take advantage of the rare moment Alcorn’s new leadership offers.

The ball is at the top. The potential is the greatest. Are we going to harness it?

Ben Hillyer is web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at