Nancy Coffee is president and CEO of Leadership Academy:

“The state of the economy calls for action bold and swift.” The remark by Barack Obama in his inaugural address is one that resonates with the mission and the work of the Academy Masters and Fellows. As we look at the year ahead, there will no doubt be challenges. But there will also be opportunity.

Last fall, The Leadership Academy had the honor of hosting Cory Booker, who reminded us that Memphis is “big enough to be significant but small enough to be manageable and show change quickly.” And as I saw Memphis-born Aretha singing in Washington this afternoon, I was reminded how our beautiful songs have touched the nation and the world. Now, the sprit behind those songs must compel us to act for positive change. Our advantage is that in a time when we need change, Memphis can edge out other cities by bringing change faster.

One place where leadership is already in action is in the Memphis City Schools. TFA (see Brad Leon’s eloquent post), with its corps of inspiring younger leaders, along with other great teachers at our city and charter schools, have blazed a trail for excellent education and shown us how to make education attainment a reality. We need that educated workforce to stay here and help make Memphis a city of choice.

Other exciting developments are shooting up in greening this year. From the million trees that will soon be planted at Shelby Farms to the opening of new trails down to things like the spruced up Belvedere Pocket park, Memphis is going green and taking the responsibility for environmental stewardship down to the individual, grass-roots level.

We must act — boldly and swiftly — in making our community safer. This means working with Operation Safe Community to help their strategies for safety succeed. It also means building on the initial success of the Real Time Crime Center by bringing to bear more technological innovations that make Memphis safer.

The resources, the desire, the talent — it’s all here. Let’s keep it here and build on it by working for positive change.