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The Great Community by Arthur Morgan

"Where there is no vision, the people perish.' So it is with communities. Americans have had no great expectations of theirs, and have had no picture of what a great community might be like. The hope of the small town has been, not to be a great community, but to become a city. Seeing our communities as of little importance, we have neglected them, robbed them, and fled from them.

Only as we come to see them as the sources of population and of national character and culture, and as possible centers of interest and opportunity, will our young people choose them for their life careers. Economic and social security are not enough. If a community is to hold its boys and girls, building with them a great community, it must be to them a place of significance and of high adventure.

Because economic security is so generally lacking, many have felt that if a whole community should be economically secure, other limitations would disappear and the good community would emerge. Yet often where economic security has existed the community has been uninteresting, if not banal, and young people have fled from it.

Other communities, with the idea that education is the magic key have staked their hopes on schools and colleges, only to find their young people driven from home to seek careers. There have been many ethically fine communities in which nearly every family lived in a spirit of good will.

Believing that fine human relationships is the one essential of a good community, they rested on their fortunate condition. Young people of such communities, finding few home opportunities for adequate careers, and lacking a vision of the Great Community, left for more promising fields. In this manner, many fine communities have been almost depopulated.

The Greatest handicap to human progress has been a partial view of life. When people set their hearts on achieving some particular excellence, their success has sometimes been remarkable, but the resulting lopsided development has often resulted in social breakdown. All-round growth may be slower and less spectacular, but is more enduring. That is true of communities as of people. The Great Community must be built on a full all-round view of life and its possibilities.  

The Great Community will achieve a living unity. It will not be just an aggregation of individuals, families, congregations, firms, cliques, and interests. Holding that 'that which unites us is greater than that which separates us,' it will develop unity of outlook, purpose, and program without thwarting individual or group autonomy. Its various organizations will not tear the community apart to advance themselves, but will be agencies of an enlarging and unifying community life."

Arthur Morgan wrote The Small Community and The Great Community in the 1940's. He founded Community Service, Inc. and served as President of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

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