Nobody’s Doing It.

It occurred to me, as I was Tweeting and updating my Facebook status, that not many (if any) people are going to believe me when I recommend they should all check out the Southside Film Festival tonight. You see, while I was studying and playing basketball at Lehigh for five years, I rarely talked positively about Bethlehem. So when I advertise, not only my interest but my actual physical presence, at an event that honors filmmaking in the city, I understand the response I receive: crickets. If anything, people are going to find it quite odd that Kristen Dalton suddenly cares about the one place she couldn’t wait to leave.

The truth is, I am just as dumbfounded as they are.

But this reveals a greater problem that goes further than cognitive disonance, or the conflicting relationship between what we say and what we do. It has something to do with disbelief and loss of credibility. People who know what I stand for and represent are going to wonder why all of a sudden I’ve changed my tune. Why am I singing a different a song? And more importantly, why should anyone care?

Here is the fine line that makes everyone re-evaluate the idea that they know somebody. In reality, this line is more like a wide gap. Many things will fall in. Many things will fall out. When they do, we call it change. And we all adjust ourselves accordingly. But the trap here, is losing credibility during this transition, for better or worse. No one is going to believe that what once was, is now changing before their eyes. And they’re certainly not going to follow anything you say.

As the collective few of the Bethlehem strong are trying to make change among the community, they are eventually going to need the help of the Lehigh population. But what is going to make a current student want to listen to a recent graduate when she says Yes! Check out the film festival! Especially when everyone knows that present Lehigh students hardly get involved while recent graduates rarely stick around. One of the most important things that is falling through the gap, is the wanting to step off the mountain. So if we are going to build some credibility, we are going to have to start from the inside out. When students realize it’s not about what the city of Bethlehem can do for them, and more about what they can do for Bethlehem (insert finger point and political message here), they’ll start to take interest. For me, it was a way to write about one of my favorite things: change. It was an opportunity to give myself: my thoughts, my ideas, my words, to audience that more than welcomed it. Before I knew it, I was apart of the conversation.

The trouble with this idea of giving your gifts and putting your talents to good use, is that many Lehigh students believe they are too good for Bethlehem. With Philadelphia and New York housing major companies across a variety of industries, why wouldn’t you want to work there? Bethlehem isn’t there, just yet. Plus, it’s just way too hard to build something from scratch than add to something already proven to be successful. If you’re not creative, you probably won’t find any value in Bethlehem. You won’t see what the open-minded visionaries see. Which is why one day, you will just have to see for yourself.

There is an equal and opposite part necessary to pull this off: continue working from the outside in. The trick here, is to not get caught up in the game of convincing. It wastes too much energy. Instead, Bethlehem events and programs should stay focused and active and on-going. All it takes is one person to think that the film festival is the greatest thing ever before it becomes contagious. The real progress happens face-to-face, person-to-person. And you the know the best way to do that is? Having a conversation. You know what’s better than Tweeting and status updates? Word of mouth. Sure, it’s a slower and ancient way of doing things. But it’s always worked. Story-telling has always worked. Why? Because human emotion is universal. And you can’t get that through technology that paralyzes the soul.

Will any of my Followers on Twitter or Friends on Facebook stop by tonight for the kick off at Home and Planet? Probably not. Will they at least come to the opening night film of Africa United? Doubtful. But I won’t give up that hope that maybe someone will. I guess it doesn’t matter much anyway. The truth is, I’m a pretty cool kid. And when pretty cool kids do something that nobody else is doing, it soon becomes cool anyway. I have no worries.



  1. YES! Bethlehem will be THE place to live, work, and play down the road a little bit. As the renaissance continues to evolve here, we anticipate the beginning of Phase 2 of the makeover (of 4 Phases). Just wait and see what’s coming! Those LU folks who grab that sheepskin and run off will be so very sorry they didn’t check us out. We are thrilled to have LU partnering with us in this renaissance. Now if we can get the students interested, maybe they’d stay here to work in our quietly being hatched LVIP 7.

  2. Some graduates will stay. Some want to spread their wings and work in a city, and nothing will change their minds. They may want to be Anywhere Other for a while, or gain work experiences that only a big city can provide. Bethlehem will never be able to compete with Manhattan, Center City Philadelphia, or DC in many ways.

    We shouldn’t worry about the post-college “brain drain,” so long as we can attract college grads from other regions after THEY graduate, and provide the kind of quality of life and career opportunities that people want “later” (even 5 years after graduation) in life.

    Some, like me, will return after living in a big city because they found things about the region that they loved, and enjoy the quality of life here. Some will return because they can get a bigger house and send their kids to good public schools. Or because they want to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Or because an incubator or other business program incentivizes them to relocate.

    As for when students are on campus, it’s up to Bethlehem to welcome them, but ultimately, it’s in the hands of the individual student how they choose to spend their time: the allure of The Hill, the responsibilities of a heavy courseload and thriving student life programs are all very good reasons why many students don’t spend more time exploring off-campus. In my opinion, it’s not that they don’t know about what’s going on off-campus, it’s that they don’t prioritize knowing.

    You’re on the right track, Kristen! Don’t doubt your motivations. Know that your words are planting a seed. Even if you don’t see familiar faces at this year’s film festival, maybe you will at next year’s, or at other community events.

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