An amazing little city

To the editor,

I was in A.F. for my 50th class reunion and found an amazing little city. American Falls like most agriculturally oriented small towns has suffered from a decline in the number of agricultural employees and the hollowing of local retail by larger adjacent cities. But the new downtown street scene looks good and will only get better. Hopefully locals will eventually fill empty retail establishments and more importantly A.F. residents will decide to buy locally even if costs more than at the big box stores in Pocatello.

I attended the 2019 AFHS graduation which was a very uplifting and optimistic event. The Germanic roots of my hometown are still obvious in the very familiar surnames but the new Hispanic influence demonstrates a dynamism to be proud of. The friendly integration of the audience and the graduating class was particularly inspiring in these days of divisiveness.

A hundred percent of the 2019 Beavers are registered in higher education. Their education will be assisted by $700,000 in scholarships that they earned. Many already have earned college credits and one graduate has finished the entire first year of college before graduating from high school. Can any other Idaho high school match that performance?

The bilingual nature of the commencement was also admirable. While some are affronted by the use of any language other than English in official proceedings, the A.F. administration’s inclusion of Spanish is truly admirable. Thomas Jefferson correctly noted that much of the history of the United States is written in Spanish. Being bilingual in a nation that has so few people that speak more than one language should be a matter of pride not shame. The loss of our ability to speak German in American Falls is disappointing. Only a few generations back German was as prevalent on the streets of American Falls as Spanish is today. But we have demonized the speaking of “foreign” languages as un-American. Anyone who has struggled to learn another language appreciates how hard it is and knows that those who speak two languages can far more easily learn a third or fourth language. We also know that children have an uncanny ability to absorb language naturally and effortlessly. A bilingual community in which children can hear and internalize another language should be appreciated not scorned. German may have been lost partly because of the War but I sure wish my brain had had the benefit of hearing more German as I grew up.

A particularly emotional use of Spanish at the graduation was the thank you speech to the “Madres y Padres.” Nelson Mandela said “If you talk to a man with a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” How appropriate and loving for the Hispanic parents to be thanked by their graduating children in their native tongue.

I hope that the Administration of the school district can continue and expand the use of this bilingual asset. This mixed language environment obviously has added much complexity, cost and more than a few headaches for administrators, teachers and staff, but out of that frustration all of the students are going to be better communicators, more empathetic and down right smarter in facing the future global challenges. Hopefully students in kindergarten and the early grades are learning to be bilingual in classes and at recess, these young kids can effortlessly absorb languages and expand the interconnection of the neurons and neurotransmitters in their growing brains while laughing and playing.

Over the years I have worried about what would happen to my hometown, but I no longer carry any concerns. American Falls has challenges but the future will be bright given what I observed. As the trees and students mature their future will be bright and so will the community that’s nurtured them.

Steve Wetzel

Class of 1969

Read more opinion pieces in the paper edition of The Power County Press! Subscribe Today!

Thanks for reading!

Read more in this week's print edition.Subscribe Today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *