Q&A - October 11, 2015

Negative attitudes are a lot like old wounds. Sometimes, they never fully heal. They just form ugly scars and cause pain. But like old wounds, maybe the opposing perceptions of others can teach us something.

They can remind us where we have been and what we have overcome. I certainly understand there are some people who are skeptical about the Okmulgee Rising campaign and have convinced themselves that nothing lasting will ever result from it. But with this week’s question, permit me to explain why so many people in this town are doing what they can to improve Okmulgee and see inherent value in the effort.

Q: Why are you trying so hard to change Okmulgee? It’s a lost cause. What’s done is done!

Oftentimes, we like to describe a town as being either “dead” or “alive,” but in actuality, we are describing the mindset of the people who live there. Obviously, a town has no life of its own. It is merely a geographical location with a grouping of inanimate structures. It has no self-pride. It cares nothing about its appearance and gives no thought to its own future. But those who occupy it, they give it life and character. When residents love their town and care for it, they can fill it with pride and make it a beautiful place to experience and enjoy. When local people can see the potential around them, they can shape their town and mold it into something wonderful. Towns don’t grow and improve themselves, caring people grow and improve their towns. Okmulgee still has many people who care about it, and because of them—because of us, Okmulgee will rise again. We give it prosperity. We give it hope. We are its promise. We are Okmulgee, and we are rising.

It’s really very simple, why some of us are trying so hard to change Okmulgee… because Okmulgee can’t change itself. One way or another, our attitudes will shape this town. Okmulgee will either regain some of its prominence and prosperity or continue to decline into ruin because of us. When we give up completely on this town, it will be a lost cause. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Okmulgee will “die” when its residents all give in to despair. When we stop caring and stop trying, all hope will be gone. But as long as there are residents who are fighting to keep this town “alive,” it has a fighting chance. As long as there are residents who are willing to invest in its future, it will have a future. The solution to all of Okmulgee’s problems is us.

All wounds heal from the inside out, and our town is no different. Okmulgee is suffering from many old wounds. It is scarred by the negative attitudes of many of its residents. So the healing of Okmulgee must begin from within. How can we expect Okmulgee to be well-regarded by others, when we so openly disregard it ourselves? If you want to live in a town that you can be proud of, it starts by showing some pride in the town you live in. When attitudes change about Okmulgee, this town will change.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to respond to such a thought-provoking question. Please continue to send your questions to osuit-president@okstate.edu.