Like these dreamers, we must reach for stars

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 6, 2002

It has been an interesting 17 years for this community. Whilethe rest of the world discovered LDDS when it went public in 1990,locally, we knew the story and marveled at the success of thecompany we had been watching since the mid-1980s.

Like the way a community finds pride in its school’schampionship sports team, this area found a source of pride that agroup of local fellows could turn an idea into a worldwide company.That pride swelled with every new acquisition. LDDS or WorldCom,the name did not matter, for the company was this community’scompany — our source of pride. Stockholder or not, if you werefrom Brookhaven you proudly told others of its success and localconnection.

From that modest beginning in 1984, a tremendous amount ofwealth was created here in town. Unfortunately for many, includingBernie Ebbers, that wealth has disappeared as the rose lost itsbloom and the stock price now hovers in the $1.75 range.

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Oh, was it fun watching it going up! But, the fall has beenpainful.

Regardless of the current situation, WorldCom has been and willcontinue to be a source of pride and economic benefit for thisarea. A number of its Clinton employees commute daily fromBrookhaven. A number of spin-off companies have been createdlocally due to the telecommunications revolution led by WorldComduring the 1990s.

It is of interest that during the hectic days of the last week,as reporters from the Wall Street Journal, Business Week and otherscalled searching for information on Bernie Ebbers, the one questionthey all asked was about the anger in the community over the fallof Bernie and WorldCom. Little, if any, was the answer they found.What they found was community pride and support for a hometownboy.

If there is a lesson to be learned in the rise and fall ofWorldCom, it is that regardless of who you are or where you are,success can come to those who are willing to take a risk. Therewill be failures — and success can turn into failure very easily– as the WorldCom situation shows. But without trying, success cannever happen.

It was the willingness of David Singleton, Max Thornhill, DannyDunaway, Carl Aycock and Bernie Ebbers to take the first step thatstarted it all. Of course, it then took the many others here andelsewhere to join the vision.

It has been a great ride and, hopefully, the rose will bloomagain. In the meantime, as fellow citizens of Brookhaven andLincoln County we need to continue our vision to build a strongercommunity. Like WorldCom, this area has seen significant growth,and that growth will continue – as long as we are willing to reachfor the stars. However, like WorldCom, we, too, could falter if wedo not keep our focus on the assets we have. We must continue towork together to build our schools, our retail and industrial baseand our community unity.