Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inauguration and the Green Building Academy--a Double Dose of Inspiration

Inauguration Day--never before have over 2 million Americans come to Washington to stand in freezing weather for hours to celebrate a new President. Barack Obama, though, inspires people to do out-of-the-ordinary things. I have watched on TV many of the Presidential inaugurations in my lifetime. The one from the past that kept coming to mind was John Kennedy's--the last time until now that we have had a truly gifted leader emerge at the right time to take on the enormous problems the country faces. And of course, I was reminded of Dr. King's dream of freedom and equality for all citizens. Symbolism became reality when President Obama was sworn in.

He has called upon every citizen to be part of a new "era of responsibility" to each other, our communities and country, and the planet. His challenge to "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the remaking of America", saying "we are ready to lead" once again is exactly the attitude that is needed in these times.

This remaking is already underway here in Sonoma County. I participated in a meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Green Building and Design Academy at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa yesterday as well. A former client--for whom I built a solar-powered house seven years ago--teaches there and initiated this unique program. It has 30 sophomores, more than half of whom are "at risk" academically, socially or economically.

After only one semester in the program, these kids have become passionate about learning because they see a future for themselves working in Green technology and business. Some want to be hands-on technicians, retrofitting existing buildings for energy-efficiency or installing solar systems. Others have already set their sights toward higher education to learn marketing, engineering, construction management or computer science, all with a Green emphasis.

Some of these students who could barely express themselves last fall now go out to speak publicly before adult community groups telling about their reasons for getting involved, their personal difficulties in school in the past, and their new plans for the future. This program is the only one of its kind and I am thrilled to be a part of it. It is evolving spontaneously in response to a real need and is a guidepost to a hopeful future.

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