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A new year means chances for change Kevin Blaum In the Arena

THIS FIRST Sunday of 2009 marks the 50th edition of “In The Arena.” I suppose that’s an anniversary of some sort, as one year ago I was preparing my first column on a newly elected and possibly pivotal county commissioner named Maryanne Petrilla.

At that time the newspaper suggested naming my column “The Political Arena.” The use of the word “Arena” was an obvious play on words that I enjoyed but, even though it would be predominantly a column about government and politics, I did not want the word “political” in the title. I asked that the title be changed to “In The Arena” and the newspaper agreed. The phrase is taken from a passage by Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man (or woman) stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

One year ago we stood at the commencement of a national political nova few would have imagined. The excitement it generated breached the walls of 2008 and spills over into this year, flooding a nation as it rises toward its incredible crescendo 16 days from now.

But then what? Will the enormous interest and participation of 2008 lead to even more energy and activity in 2009? Or will that be the end of it? Will young people, of all ages, in both parties, who got up off the couch to make a difference in ’08, do so again in ’09? Or will they return, clicker in hand, to the comfy cushions they occupied prior to joining remarkable movements of hope and inspiration that are the stuff of political campaigns?

Does that passion and commitment that once was, just end? Or will the volunteers of 2008 become the candidates of 2009? There are many local, school and county offices on the ballot this spring offering countless opportunities for you to make a positive difference in your community. Getting your name on the ballot is not a secret formula of the realm that some incessant critics would have you believe. It’s actually quite simple.

On Feb. 17 go to the Election Office at 20 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in Wilkes-Barre. Ask for petitions for the local, school or county office you wish to seek. Fill out all the forms. Get your family, friends and neighbors who are registered in your party to sign your petition. Enclose a filing fee if one’s required. For most municipal and school board positions there is little or no filing fee and only a small number of signatures are needed on your petition. On the county level 250 names and a $100 filing fee are required. Get everything back to the election office before the March 10 deadline and viola, your name will pop up on the computer when we all go to vote in the May 19 primary.

It is time to start your campaign. Do not let your place, “be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” Join those who strive valiantly, “In The Arena.”

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