Silver lining emerging from Katrina damage

Published 6:00 am Monday, October 31, 2005

“If you always do what you’ve always done. You will alwayshave what you’ve already got …”

Jim Barksdale

Within every disaster, if one looks hard enough and long enough,a silver lining can be found – a silver lining that brings hope toa hopeless situation.

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Eight weeks following Hurricane Katrina, despite thecatastrophic destruction, the hardships and heartaches that thewinds and waves brought upon the Gulf Coast as well as here insouthwest Mississippi, a silver lining is beginning to emerge.

It began with a series of meetings two weeks ago that broughttogether some of the most creative minds from not only this statebut across the country. Called together by Gov. Haley Barbour andlead by Jim Barksdale, this group began the rebuilding process forthe Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Jim Barksdale, of course, made his mark on the world through hisefforts to build Federal Express, McGraw Cellular and Netscape.Each company was a revolutionary concept that changed the world,each a stepping-stone to the Internet age in which we livetoday.

Not to rest on his laurels following retirement, Barksdale cameback to Mississippi to give back to the state of which he was born.His vision and generosity has helped thousands upon thousands ofschoolchildren across the state improve their reading skills. Hisgenerosity to higher education has built an Honors College at OleMiss that is ranked amongst the best the country.

The Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewalhas the job of directing the revitalization of the coast area. Withthe complete destruction of the coast’s infrastructure, commissionmembers have the ability to reach for the stars and dream. Theirsis a visionary rebuilding that involves more than roads, water andsewer lines. Theirs is a conceptual rebuilding upon which thefuture of not only the coast but of Mississippi can be built. Thegovernor has given them until Dec. 31 to present their plan.

“If you always do what you’ve always done. You will alwayshave what you’ve already got …”

Tuesday morning ,a $20 million cog in their wheel of conceptualbrainstorming was presented to the state through Cisco Systems, thecomputer technology company that supplies most of the computernetworking switches in the world. Cisco’s gift is to be used toestablish a revolutionary wireless networking system for southMississippi schools. The gift is not just to buy equipment but alsoto develop a model education system for the rest of the state andhopefully the world.

Like Barksdale, the CEO of Cisco Systems thinks big. LikeBarksdale, Cisco’s John Chambers is a visionary. Both see the worldfrom a different perspective than the rest of us.

It is called “thinking out of the box” by eliminating reasonswhy something cannot be done and finding ways things can be done.It is a matter of changing one’s mind set. Many products we usetoday are the result of thinking outside the box.

Here in southwest Mississippi, as well as in the rest of thestate, our communities will not be direct beneficiaries of thecoast-rebuilding plan, nor are our schools receiving any of Cisco’seducation grants. But we do not have to be left out of the visionif we, too, grasp that vision and begin thinking outside thebox.

The Gulf Coast’s silver lining can also be our silver lining,one of vision and determination that insures our community andschools are competitive on the state and world stage.

Katrina changed the rules. The economically successfulMississippi communities of the future will find ways to takeadvantage of those changes.

“If you always do what you’ve always done. You will alwayshave what you’ve already got …”

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to