Business Insider’s ranking of Anderson as the United States’ 35th “most miserable” city stings, but solace can be found in the reality of life in Anderson to those who live, work and play here.

Still, the Business Insider listing strikes a nerve because it’s rooted in the hard times of the last three decades.

For comfort, it’s interesting to turn to Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” and find applications to the history of Anderson and where we’re headed.

Here, in italics, are quotes from the 1862 novel, turned into a famous play, with interpretations for Anderson.

“Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.”

That dark night came when unemployment spiked and the last GM plant closed down. Today, the local economy is indeed rising, propelled by a much more diverse engine of employers.

“Not being heard is no reason for silence.”

Business Insider and most media that have reported on Anderson’s “miserable” ranking won’t care enough about the truth to set foot on the ground here and learn what the community is really about. But those who love Anderson will share its virtues with any who will listen.

“Those who do not weep, do not see.”

While we rightfully reject our “miserable” ranking, Anderson has more than its share of problems: underemployment, low educational attainment and a west side that’s been neglected for far too long, to name three. We must be determined to confront these.

“Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces.”

Major problems from the GM shutdown persist.

One is a cultural resistance to education, bred by big-money factory jobs that did not require even a high school diploma. But with Anderson University, a new Ivy Tech Community College campus and committed leaders in our public schools, Anderson is well positioned to turn this weakness into strength.

“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”

Piecemeal, many Andersonians and local organizations have clear visions of a bright future. But the city itself has pinballed from one mayoral administration to another for more than a decade, leaving us dizzy and unable to focus on what the community could be. The city must update and follow a comprehensive plan that would survive the exchange of power at election times.

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in — what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”

Anderson has a potentially top-rate system of parks and trails. Those who frequent them know the potential well. Inviting, vibrant public spaces are a strength to be developed.

“There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher.”

Anderson has a high poverty rate, 26 percent. Forcing that rate down is the community’s single biggest challenge. Will our humanity elevate us?

“The future has several names. For the weak, it is impossible; for the fainthearted, it is unknown; but for the valiant, it is ideal.”

No matter what your interpretation of Anderson’s “miserable” Business Insider ranking, if you truly know our community, you know there are a host of good reasons to choose valor.
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