The cast of Knoxville High's production of "High School Musical" joins hands in the show's finale.

A song has been stuck in my head since Saturday night. “We’re All in This Together” was the catchy climax to Knoxville High’s production of “High School Musical” last weekend, but more than the melody, it’s the image I cant shake.

The show’s finale features an idealistic convergence of jocks, brainiacs, drama geeks and other cliques, all joining hands and hearts to help each other toward success.

I can’t help but think there are lessons to be learned in the lyrics:

Everyone is special in their own way

We make each other strong

We’re not the same

We’re different in a good way

Together’s where we belong

These words are a lot more inspiring from the mouths of amped-up high schoolers, but the message — or its potential — resounds through our community.

I've done a lot of reporting lately about opportunities and challenges best approached together. I'm working on a localized version of a national story about Iowa being the best state in the nation. Talking to several folks around town, I discovered a common theme: Our state and our town are places where people are there for each other.

That’s a category that doesn’t show up on any tidy matrix, but it keeps people here and it keeps people moving.

You’ll find inside today our annual “Focus on Marion County” tabloid. While its pages are pretty positive, it also addresses a lot of challenges our county faces. It struck me as I reported some Focus stories and edited others that towns and businesses always will compete, but the strongest ones find ways to play nicely with others. They move from a “me” to a “we” approach.

Reporting on the Iowa story Monday, I was moved by three people, two of whom I didn’t even speak with. I crossed paths with them in the courthouse. They’re both up in years and down on their luck, leaning on each other and others. I’ve had the opportunity to help them in various roles and I regret being too busy Monday to get their thoughts about Iowa. My hunch is that they wouldn’t have broken out in a chorus of “We’re All in This Together.”

The guy I did talk with was Aaron Adams, Knoxville’s city manager. I asked him how Iowa can continue to be a great state or become even better.

He said that his goal, and a value of all city managers, is to work to build up everyone — not just businesses or special interest groups. It gave me hope for those people back at the courthouse.

Later this week I’ll begin talking to people across the political spectrum for our Pulse of the Voters project. We’ll discuss the state of America and what politicians, the president and people like you and me can do to improve it.

I’ll approach each interview with a mind that’s pretty open, except maybe for a hopeful tune that surely will still be stuck in there:

We’re all in this together

And it shows, when we stand

Hand in hand

Make our dreams come true.


Pat Finan is the managing editor of the Journal-Express. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-842-2155 or via email at pfinan@journalexpress.net.

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