As a relative newcomer to Columbia, I admit I have become obsessed with the word “Pioneer.” In many cases this word has been used by people who want to indicate that they are the ones who ought to be making the decisions about Columbia. It has come to denote ownership.
Prior to writing this post, I checked Dictionary.com, which lists the following as the first definition, “Pioneer: A person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.” (No mention of ownership or control there.)
Recently I have begun a pretty regular search on the Internet for information about pioneers. Who is a pioneer? Who comes after the pioneers? What do you call the people who come after the pioneers? Most of the entries fall into one of two categories—elementary school lesson plans about the settling of the American West, and religious websites, especially those of the Mormon Church.
For instance, take this anecdote:
A fellow pastor recently made an interesting observation about pioneers and settlers. He said: “It use to be the settlers who were assured of safety. It was the life of a pioneer that was fraught with danger. In today’s world this has changed. It is no longer the settlers who are safe, but the pioneers. The settlers are dying. The pioneers—those who are willing to venture forth and take risks—they are ones who are truly safe because they are the ones who have the potential to grow and experience new life."
- Bill Nieporte, “Preaching In The Transition Zone: Pioneers or Settlers?"
Now, as you can imagine, the writer goes on to discuss challenges facing the contemporary church. But I found it startling and enlightening in a whole different way.
Have the Pioneers of the past become the Settlers of today? If the Pioneers are truly “those who are willing to go forth and take risks,” then perhaps the ownership of that title is changing. Being a Pioneer isn’t about claiming ownership because you got here first. It comes with the responsibility to "have the potential to grow and experience new life.”
Tonight CA and the Howard Hughes Corporation are teaming up to present “21st Century Development Trends: How Will Columbia Measure Up?” with Chris Leinberger. I don’t think for one minute that my obsession with Pioneers will be addressed. But I do think that the issue may be an elephant in the room.