Last week, I gave a status report on some of my longstanding mini-crusades?#34;some successful, most not. Here's more of my list:
? OPRF graduation. More faculty have actually been showing up for the commencement ceremony. For years they were largely no-shows, which made me, and probably quite a few others, doubt their dedication. Having taught high school myself once upon a time, I can't believe a real teacher wouldn't want to attend commencement.
No movement on the other fronts, however. If OPRF insists on naming a small army of valedictorians, they should at least have them choose one girl and one boy to speak for the entire platoon. The "group speech" approach is a dud.
And speaking of speeches, the school has never picked up on my suggestion of inviting a guest commencement speaker each June. There are so many fascinating figures living in Oak Park and River Forest who would be educational and inspirational?#34;for both the grads and the bored audience.
? Half-price tickets for teens and young adults to lure them into Austin Gardens each summer to see Shakespeare. Festival Theatre's current $20 admission is too high for kids. If they're willing to pay $8 for a movie, they'd probably be willing to pay $10 to sit under the stars in a beautiful setting and watch Shakespeare. Festival would gain revenue because these kids aren't attending now. And they'd be performing a public service by giving kids one more recreational option during the summer months while promoting an appreciation of culture. I still say it's a missed opportunity.
? We need a paved bike trail along the Des Plaines River. This suggestion always sends Vic Guarino over the edge, but as much as I respect his restoration efforts in the forest preserves, this would, in the long run, complement those efforts. Unfortunately, the odds of Vic's vision for the forest preserves or mine ever coming to fruition?#34;given the inadequacies of the Forest Preserve District and Cook County government in general?#34;are virtually nil, but a paved trail would be such a recreational boon for this area, I can't help pushing the idea once in a while.
? And speaking of the forest preserves, I also dream of Trailside Museum operating as a true nature center, with actual programming and naturalists on staff to lead hikes through the surrounding woods. What wasted potential there is by the Des Plaines River.
There are "causes" galore. I'd like to see:
? Oak Park Village Hall plaza on Madison Street better utilized as a public space. It's lovely, especially when lit up at night.
? Dominican and Concordia universities forge a reciprocol credit arrangement so students can take advantage of each university's specialties.
? One of Oak Park's elementary schools (Hatch perhaps) named after the late Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Carol Shields who grew up here.
? Cummings Memorial restored in River Forest, a canoe launch on the Des Plaines River, one theater at the Lake devoted entirely to art or independent films.
I'd like to see a ban on Hummers, just to send an environmental message; more partnerships between River Forest, Oak Park and Austin; Westgate and the Drechsler buildings revitalized; the old Marshall Field's clock cleaned and restored; a true performing arts center in downtown Oak Park.
And, yes, I'd like to see a cap over the Eisenhower Expressway.
I can't help it. Everywhere I look, I see potential. Most of these items fall far down the wish list of the powers that be, if they even make the list at all.
Most I'll never see, but I just can't stop wishing for more.