As we approach Kingsport’s centennial, I am reminded of the impact this city has had on so many lives.
My mom is from Hawkins County, my dad from Southwest Virginia. They came to Kingsport seeking a better life for their children and grandchildren. Citizens of this new town came from nearby and faraway. It was an early melting pot of diversity from around the world – people with a common goal – to build a better future.
March 2nd isn’t just Kingsport’s birthday, it’s also my son’s. Just like his mother, sister, and I, he was born at Holston Valley Hospital. He reaped the benefit of one of the many institutions that were envisioned, planned and funded by the Kingsport Spirit. And so goes the circle of life. Our family, like so many others, inherited a city with exceptional schools, incredible parks, strong volunteerism, charitable conviction, civic-minded businesses, an infectious community pride, and a can-do attitude.
Jim Harlan, chair of the Kingsport Community Foundation said, “You’re here today because someone came before you to lay the groundwork…someone helped you…someone prayed for you – and it’s your responsibility to do the same for those to come.”
When you think about the odds this fledgling city faced, the Kingsport Spirit is even more pronounced. In 1910, developers set out to build a city. Four years later, World War I broke out. Twelve years later, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Ten years later, World War II consumed the globe again.
At every turn, in any situation, Kingsport citizens have risen to the occasion.
Whether it be the groundbreaking founding of Douglass High School in 1928, the Santa Train in 1942, Bays Mountain Park in 1968, Fun Fest in 1980, Kingsport Tomorrow in 1989, MeadowView Convention Center in 1996, the Academic Village in 2002, the Kingsport Carousel in 2010, the PEAK young professionals in 2013, or the recent OneKingsport Summit – Kingsport is willing to dream – it’s willing to work – and it’s willing to leave a legacy.
The original vision was fifty thousand residents. Today, Kingsport’s population stands at 53,028.
We stand at a crossroads. Rest on the successes of the past, or boldly dream and build for the future. What will Kingsport be in 2117? I won’t be here to find out, but I hope we’ve all left it a little better than we found it – for future generations.
In closing, you’ve made the dream of this little boy from Cherry Street a reality. I consider it one of life’s greatest blessings to be able to give back to the place that made, shaped, and nurtured me. It’s an even greater blessing that my wife and children have shared this journey with me. Wherever I go, people remind me, “There’s something different about this place. Don’t ever take that for granted.”
Whether you’ve been here 100 years or 100 days – I hope you feel THE KINGSPORT SPIRIT. It will leave an indelible mark on your soul that you’ll carry wherever you go.