Puzzling, yet captivating billboards, signs, and little TV bites circulated throughout my hometown for a little while – the phrase, “Bravely Onward,” was on each of them. I couldn’t quite make sense of what they meant, but I could feel the passion and devotion behind the thing, whatever it was.
Then one day I finally saw what it was meant to do:
I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears when I first saw it (and my sister confessed she had the same reaction). Even though there’s that huge, glaring corporate logo at the end of it, (Fidelity Bank is one of the largest locally owned banks in Wichita, for you non-Wichitans), it’s still an emotional video and the logo didn’t bother me.
People began talking about it more and more – friends, family, strangers at the supermarket. Some found it inspirational, that this is what we, as a city, need right now – bravery. Others didn’t think Wichita was doing so bad when looked at on a national level.
I get it. “Bravely onward,” suggests that tough times might be ahead, that we ought to find some armor, get our game faces one, Frodo up.
I think it could also mean that we’re about to leave an already scary and tough place and move to where we want to be – free of armor and chainmail, a little more comfortable, passionate, and active than we are right now.
Many of you out-of-towners might not know this, but Wichita is historically an entrepreneurial hub. People hear Kansas and they think it’s just a state of one horse towns and wheat. They hear “Wichita” and think so what? When we, Kansas hear Wichita we think, as the video provides, air capital of the world. We know that we are the bread basket of the world. Every time we pass a Papa Johns or a Pizza Hut or a Freddy’s, we think to the little old buildings they began in, here in our town. Even Pepsi was headquartered here for many years. We can’t forget about the small businesses that have withstood the tests of time either – La Galette, Walt’s, Scotch and Sirloin, Larkspur, far too many to list unless you’re here in town looking for some of the classics.
But recent years have jaded many Wichitans. Layoffs, economic strife, aircraft companies breaking up with Wichita for Washington and Texas, even some leaders have run from their responsibility to their community.
People have been afraid that our city is on the verge of collapse. Some have even left town. Sadly enough, not one person, elected leader, or company has stepped up to the plate to lead the people. To inspire them just for the sake of inspiration. To remind them exactly where we came from, what our foundations were built upon, what we are capable of.
Take the slogan however you want, but life demands bravery. This ad is dynamic enough to remind people of that – no matter what their situation is.
When you’re wobbling down the road on your bike after Dad lets go.
When your toes grip the edge of the high dive and you want nothing more than to climb back down that ladder.
That first day of high school when you’re trying to not look like the scrawny, awkward, strange kid you are.
That first night home after unpacking your kid in their freshman dorm.
When war suddenly renders you a single parent.
As humans, we hope for the best and we rarely see our expectations met. At times, we even forget what those expectations were in the first place – we just keep on wanting that fresh start, that brand new future. Someone needs to remind us of what we were aiming at from the start if we ever want to reach those goals. What’s a pursuit with no purpose?
We need to be reminded that those naysayers are wrong. We need to be told that we’re not going anywhere but up. That we can do this and that we will succeed. That it is our responsibility to grow, to clean up the accidents and mistakes of our past, to create our own futures.
I’m moved. We’ve conquered the sky. Now let’s conquer the stars.