Rebuilding our Community

April 14, 2013
Dr. Andrew Calhoun

Dr. Andrew Calhoun

Bridge to somewhere

By Dr. Andrew Calhoun, Ed.D.

Special for the Milwaukee Times

Each day many of us take for granted the crossing of a bridge in our daily commute. Many people do not realize the tremendous effort that goes into planning, designing and constructing a bridge. Of course, the bigger the bridge, the more it takes.

Our nation is full of bridges; each was designed and constructed for a specific purpose. A few of them have become internationally famous, noted for its engineering achievement and/ or has a unique place in history. In essence a bridge is a structure built to carrying a road, path, railroad, or canal across a river, ravine, road or other obstacle. Its central purpose is to provide an easy way to cross from one place to another, saving time, cost and provide easy access to the other side. In addition, a bridge provides a way to transport commerce, deliver public services and connect communities.


Some bridges in our nation are historical landmarks and considered national treasures. In New York City there is the Brooklyn Bridge. It is the oldest expansion bridge in the country and connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco spans the opening of the bay on the Pacific Ocean and links it to Marin County. This bridge is recognized as a symbol of the city and has been declared as one of the wonders of the modern world.

Other bridges have become known as enduring symbols of peaceful protest. The Edmund Pettus Bridge, which carries U.S. Highway 80 across the Alabama River in Selma, Alabama was the site of the conflict known as Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965. This was when armed officers attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators attempting to march on the state capital of Montgomery. In August 1967, the James E. Groppi Unity Bridge (formally 16th Street Viaduct) was the site where Father James Groppi, a Catholic priest along with the NAACP Youth Council marched across the bridge to protest housing discrimination in Milwaukee.

Pathways to the future

A bridge is also a term that is used as a metaphor to signal a need to connect with people in an effort to resolve issues or to gain support for new initiatives. It is the central concept in a process to reach out to people, to gain an understanding, respect differences and to build trust. It is to dialog with people who have been harmed, disenfranchised, taken for granted, but who also need their voices to be heard and their concerns addressed in positive ways.

Milwaukee, like most of urban America, is in need of some social bridge work. Too many bridges have fallen down, been underutilized, become obsolete or are headed nowhere. Some new bridges need to be built, while some old bridges need to be torn down; and yet others need a long term maintenance plan. As communities, cities, and the world continue to grow and become more diverse with each passing day, there is a tremendous need to build stronger bridges that provide opportunities for greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance.

Bridges regardless of their design, looks and length, were built to connect people, cities and communities. A bridge does come in handy, especially when you need one. John Burroughs, (1837- 1921), a highly regarded American naturalist and essayist in the U.S. conservation movement, once stated that “For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice – no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service.” So I say… “Let’s make a down payment and build some bridges that head somewhere and that will last.”

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not of the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper or NCON Communication, its staff or management. For feedback you can contact Dr. Calhoun at email: andrewiiicalhoun@, Facebook, twitter: AC53; http://whatdoesitlooklike. or 414-571-5015.