Velocity2040 Launches a Community Visioning Journey

Sybil Topel

What do a rock star, community visioning in Chattanooga and images of rocks in space have in common? It's not the start of a joke, I promise. Rather, it’s an invitation to think creatively about our future in Chattanooga and Hamilton County. It’s an invitation to explore how education can inspire us at all points in our lives. It’s about the wonder of wondering, ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’

Over the past eight months I’ve been honored to work with marketing communications volunteers and community leaders who care deeply about our future – through Velocity2040, our community visioning work in process. We can’t predict all the ways our collective work will have impact on future generations, but through the Velocity2040 process we’re working together to ensure that we’re intentional and all headed in the same direction.

Throughout February, you’ll hear more about the aspirations for our community that you shared when you completed the Velocity2040 community survey. You’ll hear more about how to stay engaged, about next steps. Now, back to rocks and rock stars.

Present-day rock star Brian May, of Queen, made a tough decision in 1970. Play music or keep studying physics? We know he chose music. In 2007, he also chose to return to the study of physics, continuing his lifelong educational journey. He earned his doctorate and became an astrophysicist. From my own experience, I know that education can and will change the trajectory of lives and communities. Education changed my life many times – and a wide variety of interests and studies often combined in unexpected ways to help me solve problems.

In January, NASA began sharing the first of many photos from the New Horizons probe flyby of the oldest space rock we’ve ever been able to study. Formed billions of years ago, the rock promises to illuminate how our planets formed 4.5 billion years ago. It’s nicknamed Ultima Thule, meaning ‘beyond the borders of the known world.’ (The official name is 2014 MU69.) Ultima Thule is roughly 1 billion miles from Pluto, making it the most distant object a spacecraft has ever visited. This new perspective promises to help us think differently about our future.

May has made this space journey easy to visualize, bringing together his love for science and music and his fascination with the future in a unique video in collaboration with NASA. Check it out:

“This mission represents more to me than the mission itself,” May said in a news article. “It actually represents to me the spirit of adventure and discovery and inquiry, which is inherent in the human spirit.”

May’s personal tribute to the 12-year NASA New Horizons mission blends education, talent, and a deep desire to communicate how important it is to understand our entire solar system in the present, the past and future. And, while May’s creative work draws more attention to the journey itself, it’s the collective work of hundreds of men and women of all ages and walks of life, that made the New Horizons probe reach goals that might have been unfathomable 20 years ago.

Brilliantly inspiring. We can solve any problem when we combine every talent, share our limitless imaginations and set free our power to collaborate.

We know that Chattanooga and Hamilton County face challenges and competition from other communities for talent, for jobs. The good news? We’ve launched a new and powerful wave of community collaboration and we invite all to join us on a new journey – a 20-year journey. In October 2018, we invited every Hamilton County resident to share their future dreams and ideas about how to solve our challenges.

We’re sharing what you shared here. You might have easily predicted we all want great jobs and top-notch educations for our children. We want all our children to enjoy rock star opportunities and career trajectories that soar. We’re already working together on many initiatives – including education and jobs – and if we haven’t already tapped into your potential, please consider this an open invitation to join now.

I don’t personally plan to write a song about our journey. But given that our music scene here is exploding and talent abounds – who knows? It could happen. One of you might become inspired to set our journey to music.  
In closing, I invite you to tune in, stay tuned and let your imagination soar. Together, we’ll create the best possible future.   

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