What role will you play in city’s drama?

If Federal Way is going to become a premier city we need to choose our roles carefully.

Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston

Cities always have drama. What part are you playing in Federal Way’s drama as this city works on defining its future? We may think that elections are about electing leaders, but often they are about creating new illusions. Politics is the ultimate theater experience with the ability to challenge, anger, comfort, position or re-position beliefs while writing the storyline for our future failure or success.

William Shakespeare stated in his play, “As you Like It,” in Jaques’ monologue: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts …”

Unlike people, cities have a chance for longevity beyond human years. But, similar to people, they have life-cycle phases with multiple ups, downs and revolving actors as they navigate the challenges of serving people while assuring their own survival.

People living in cities operate in the present. However, cities are trapped, shaped and defined by choices that were made in the past. They are also affected by outside forces beyond the control of leadership or done in concert with leadership for perceived benefit. But every action has intended and unintended consequences.

The moment you rented or became a homeowner, and this applies to all cities, you purchased a ticket and are part of an ongoing play whose script is always in re-write. It is an ever-evolving play with a past, present and by design no clear ending. Like it or not it is a play with a personality – collectively ours. If Federal Way is going to become a premier city we need to choose our roles carefully.

When Federal Way became a corporate headquarters – company town, the company’s drama defined the daily ups and downs. Because Federal Way’s identity was intertwined with a major corporation it had no fear because its future was secured by that corporation.

The audience did not choose to understand or believe that its corporate star would or could exit stage left and seek fame and fortune elsewhere. When drama queens leave in a huff, or just leave, the theater generally goes dark while those left behind are in search of a new star to believe in.

Big stars tend to be clannish and want to hang out with their own kind. They also know how to size up the potential of whomever is courting their celebrity. Federal Way has no real star power on its own. Federal Way’s best path forward is attracting someone who wants to be a star on a small stage.

For Federal Way to succeed and position itself on an upward trajectory, as it writes its next act, it needs to become clever at capturing the imagination of the people living here first and foremost. It needs to become a city where people live to succeed, raise and educate families, start careers, a home port to quality mid-size corporations, a launching point for entrepreneurial startups and be a gateway for experiencing the northwest.

The next act requires all of us resident actors to step up and invest energy in helping this city become opportunity central. Some of you are thinking we did that and I am tired and I want to be left alone. Yes, we already did that, but we need to do it again, only better, with 21century thinking and tools.

Celebrities know and sense fear, they feed on the positive – the marquee. A theater with boarded up windows and directionless people milling about often sends celebrities or opportunity running in the other direction.

What are corporate celebrities or fledgling entrepreneurs seeing when they scope out this city – this opportunity? Remember they are looking for somewhere to perform and hopefully find an address with some cache. Think, off-off Broadway as a way to get their foot in the door. If they invest, succeed, and stay it creates the ideal win-win scenario.

If you think that all of the energy required to write a better future for Federal Way should come from our elected officials, think again. Remember, they already volunteered to serve as actors, via election, but most of them are not good playwrights. Politicians get their script from donors, lobbyists, consultants, party affiliation, staff and maybe “we the people”. They are merely a reflection of the community’s energy, resources, thought processes, and sadly, celebrity apprentice.

If the rabble wants blood, there will be blood on the stage. If they yell for progress, a door for progress will be opened, but will you walk through that door? Remember, for Federal Way to succeed you have to participate in the present and be involved in writing the script for its future.

A good place to start sharing your ideas and energy is to join a service club, community organization, or volunteer to serve on one of the city’s many commissions or check out the volunteer opportunities list on the city’s website. Volunteering for the school district requires a background check, but there is a need for mentors and tutors.

Our job is to write Federal Way’s next act while living with the present script. So, what are you thinking about writing, a light-hearted comedy, a horror show, a better future, or more of the same drama?

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at keithlivingstondesign@gmail.com.

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