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Thumbs up to John Shaw and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale for its Statesmanship Initiative. Shaw is hoping SIUC can lead a national discussion on how to foster a generation of independent political thinkers. The initiative is a counter to today’s toxic environment of extreme partisanship and the disappearance of moderates from both parties. “Statesmanship is courage, to make hard decisions, compassion, to do so in a way that’s broad-minded, effectiveness to prioritize getting things done, and civility: Treating political opponents as people you disagree with, not as the enemy.” We say “Amen” to that. In addition, we agree with Shaw’s stated premise that we need leaders who make decisions based on the long-term, not on the basis of political expediency. It’s a discussion that is long overdue. Now, let’s just hope Shaw’s efforts bear fruit.

Thumbs down to the sad reality that Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s enrollment is likely to drop again next year. In his address to students last week SIU system President J. Kevin Dorsey gave a candid assessment of the school’s immediate future. While all indications point to a larger freshman class next year, the number of new students will be smaller than the graduating class. As a result of the numerical reality, Dorsey said the university will have to “shrink its footprint” – consolidating and becoming more efficient.

Thumbs up to Carbondale’s annual Lights Fantastic Parade. The parade has become a Carbondale tradition, signaling the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season. The parade draws visitors from all over the region – something that is readily apparent if you were driving north or south on U.S. 51 or east or west on Illinois 13 early Saturday evening. It’s a great family event that allows all of us to forget our troubles and focus on fun if only for an hour or so. And, while we’re handing out kudos, how about a Thumbs up to Mother Nature for providing temperatures in the 60s for the parade. The parade was the largest in its history and drew huge crowds.

Thumbs up to the amateur astronomers in the area for providing research data gleaned from the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse to the National Solar Observatory. Local astronomers provided hundreds of photographs that will be used to study the sun’s corona. The images will be combined with those taken by other amateur teams throughout the country. “What we can do with the images is make a movie that shows the corona evolving and twisting. That was a big deal,” said Bob Baer, who works in SIU’s physics department.

Thumbs down to the continued weather patterns that have spawned winter tornadoes in Illinois. The deep south was spared this time around, but this weekend an F-3 tornado struck Taylorville, located near Springfield. The Taylorville event is a reminder of the Feb. 29, 2012, tornado that struck Carrier Mills, Harrisburg and Ridgway.

Thumbs up to The Southern Illinoisan’s “20 Under 40” honored in the most recent edition of The Southern Business Journal. The SBJ honored 20 of Southern Illinois’ most creative, innovative entrepreneurs and executives. The 20 honorees come from a wide range of callings – from hospital administrators to brewery owners to teachers. Yet, they all have two things in common – faith and vision for the future, and they are all under 40 years of age. Since the beginning of recorded history the older generation has always despaired at the perceived lack of work ethic and common sense displayed by the younger generation. Yet, each generation proves their elders wrong, and these 20 individuals are shining symbols of hope for a bright future in Southern Illinois.

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