Oklahoma -- It's about People

Article excerpt

In recent months I've heard much about Oklahomans having a poor image of their state. And to some extent it is true -- we tend to see ourselves as bringing up the rear in most state rankings. We are regularly bombarded with economic, social and educational facts that reinforce a negative perspective.

In recent columns, I've spoken to underlying causes for poor rankings. One compelling and significant explanation is our higher- than-average non-metro population that will always keep our rankings skewed from the norm.

In my opinion there is another non-quantifiable cause related to our age as a state. New England, the mid-Atlantic, deep South, Texas, and the West Coast have a head start of decades if not centuries of civilized development. This is not a trivial factor when you think about generations of family businesses; commitment to state and community involvement; bloodlines of leadership, power and influence; and wealth generation.

There is something to be said about how and when these states and regions evolved. Many states, early in their development, were galvanized together in the common causes of freedom fought on their home soil whether it was the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War or Civil War. These struggles, values, and family traditions resulted in a strong sense of identity.

Oklahoma, too, has a rich heritage, but like so many things it is simply not as long or deep. Oklahoma's evolution can be described as much a melting pot as the nation was in its early development. Each corner of the state was founded by different groups of people for very different reasons resulting in very different socioeconomic and political values.

If there is any one common denominator that describes Oklahoma's founders and the spirit that still exists today, it is that of a pioneer. The author of The Culture of Oklahoma wrote that "a pioneer is at once both exuberant and practical, idealist and realist. He or she never loses sight of inner goals and thus keeps working diligently towards their realization. Finally, a pioneer reveres certain aspects of the past and learns from, but is not shackled to, it. …