Campus highlighted by civil pride, kindness

The day after Christmas, my cousin and I embarked on our second annual European vacation. We spent three days in Amsterdam and seven in Berlin.

We were present on New Year’s Eve at the Brandenburg Gate, complete with a stage, music and light show and what was billed as Europe’s largest fireworks show.

Along with nearly one million other people of every age, we had a great time.

There was a fair amount of beer and champagne consumption, but I can honestly state that I didn’t see anyone drunk or witness any fights or other unpleasantness.

The police were out in force and occasionally we heard the sound of an ambulance.

Most of the downtown streets were blocked off to traffic and a lot of fireworks were being set off. After the magic hour of midnight had come and gone and we retired to our hotel, we noted the remnants of fireworks and some broken glass in the streets. Most of the empty glass bottles were stacked near overflowing trash containers.

The next morning we went out to do some walking and couldn’t believe our eyes.

The Friedrichstrasse, a main street where our hotel was located, was thoroughly clean. No bottles, broken glass or litter, no overflowing trash bins, no reminders of the previous night’s frivolity.

As we walked along some side streets, the cleaning crews were still at work. Remember: this was New Year’s Day.

Within a few days, the entire party site was literally well scrubbed, the stage in front of the Brandenburg Gate disassembled, and the beer and food tents had vanished.

Berlin was a city that came into prominence in the 18th century, enjoyed being a European cultural center until the 1930s, went through the hell of National Socialism, was divided after World War II and the western portion of the city was walled in for more than 25 years.

To say that Berliners are a resilient people is an understatement. Everywhere I went, there were signs of rebuilding and rehabilitating the East Berlin district, and even talk of rebuilding a palace that was totally destroyed in World War II.

Berliners seem to have a great amount of civic pride. The trains, buses and subways run on time, and everything seems clean and orderly. On the last night we were there, I saw several city workers in reflective red vests emptying trash cans into a garbage truck.

It was 8 p.m. Perhaps the city sanitation department works two shifts.

Certainly not every part of the city is in this condition; Berlin has more than two million people and no doubt has the problems associated with any city of that size. Nonetheless, there is a pride of place that’s intangible yet real.

This civic pride, this pride of place, is not limited to Berlin. We have only to look at our own campus. Not only is there an absence of litter, but there are also very few instances of graffiti.

There are buildings whose heating system is faulty. Yet there are plans for repairs, renovations or replacements.

This pride of place also translates into action. People hold doors open for one another.

There’s seldom a time when I cross campus when someone doesn’t call my name. We can and do disagree with one another, yet it seems to be in a respectful, thoughtful manner.

There is a definite spirit here. I noticed it the first time I arrive here more than eight years ago, and it hasn’t disappeared. Even when Sarah Palin spoke at Anderson Arena, I noted that the demonstrators as being opinionated, yet cordial.

Certainly, BGSU is not perfect. But, it’s well worth building on what we have to make it better.

This environment of friendliness and order, this pride of place, is something to be treasured and encouraged.

There’s too little of it in the world.

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