This is the Life: Our best investment

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With only a week until the next election as I write this, it seemed natural that my thoughts would turn to the political scene. But call me disenchanted.

I’m tired of Stephen Harper’s disdain for our parliamentary democracy and false claims that his government is a competent steward of the country’s finances. One need only look to the multi-billion dollar commitment to buy a fleet of fighter jets or the huge promised expenditure on new jails. His is a distinctly Republican fear-mongering approach that hasn’t served the United States well, but yet a large percentage of Canadians seem happy to buy in.

I’m disillusioned by the Liberal party which, having governed for about two-thirds of the last century, seems incapable of putting together a campaign platform that has any more to offer than “We aren’t Conservative.”

I worry that the NDP’s late surge in the polls will open the doors to a Harper majority, one that Harper desperately wants but remains unwilling to explain what he hasn’t been able to accomplish with his two minority governments.

It distresses me that the Green Party, with probably the most sensible of all federal party platforms, has been unable to captivate the imagination of Canadians despite having a strong, articulate leader.

Yet I remain optimistic, in large part because I’ve been thinking a lot about next week’s Focus on Youth events. For more than a quarter-century, the Creston Valley has dedicated a week to celebrating the creative talents of our school students, and I wonder if we are truly able to appreciate the impact it has had on our community.

As I paged through Focus on Youth archives, I began to wonder whether it hasn’t been largely responsible for the explosion of creative talent we have witnessed in recent years. Has the showcase for musicians, singers, actors and visual artists helped not only to foster local talent but also to create an audience that appreciates the talents of others?

In 1988, Focus on Youth organizers presented the following as their philosophy:

Performance in the performing arts, and displaying of visual arts are both part of the creative process. It is our belief that young people must have the opportunity for these aspects of the creative process, and it is the responsibility of adult society to provide them. Although competition in the arts may have its place, it may have resulted in negative self-worth or discontinuance of further training by the majority of students who never win awards. For this reason we have elected to stress participation and recognition.

By stressing participation and not competition, Focus on Youth has provided all students the chance to have their creativity put on display, to have an audience that is asked not to judge but rather to enjoy. It has given adults like the Lavenders, the Huttons, the Frank Goodsirs, the Monte Andersons and so many others a tool to encourage youngsters to put themselves and their creations out there, knowing they won’t be hanging their heads when they don’t hear their names called out to accept an award.

Flipping through the archives, it became apparent that many participants have gone on to careers that use the creativity they showed as youngsters. Pascale Hutton has had a successful acting career. Meaghan Brierley converted her drawing talent into a career as a medical illustrator. Zav Huscroft has performed and taught violin all over the continent. Miriam Anderson works professionally as a classical musician in Europe. Tracy Truscott became celebrated tattoo artist. The list goes on and on.

And, at each of the performances, there have been adults and youth in the audience who have discovered the spiritual importance of being in the presence of artists of all sorts — it fills some of our most basic needs.

In a week that a federal election might demand most of our attention, we are fortunate to have Focus on Youth to remind us of where our future truly lies.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.