Thursday, July 24, 2014
Happy Birthday, Detroit!
Happy Birthday, Detroit!
It's been 313 years since French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac pulled his boats ashore and declared that you would be Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit. You've changed nationalities a few times. First, you were French for about 60 years before falling under British control for almost four decades. Since 1796, except for that time the British captured you during the War of 1812, you have been a proud American city.
You loaned $50,000 to the state government to help raise troops for the Union cause during the Civil War. President Lincoln exclaimed, "Thank God for Michigan!" when the Michigan troops you helped finance were the first from a western state to arrive in Washington, D.C. During World War II, your auto industry built the tanks, bombers, and jeeps that helped topple the German and Japanese threats to democracy, and your women answered the call to arms by building these machines of war while your men were storming the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima.
You survived a great fire and grew from a small fort and fur-trading post to a cosmopolitan city of almost 2 million people. In the last few decades, a lot of people gave up on you. Many moved to the suburbs or other states and forgot about you. Many others say that we should give up on you, a city that has done so much to make our country the industrial and economic power it is today. These people have short memories, but do not worry about them. You have survived 313 years, and you will live much longer than all of us.
When you burned down in 1805, Detroiters did not give up on you. When riots tore you apart in 1863, 1943, and 1967, you lived on. When you have been alive for 313 years, you are going to have some rough patches. It's inevitable.
On your birthday, please remember your own motto:
"We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes."
And remember that this has been your motto during times of prosperity and times of despair because you are a city of invention and reinvention. Today, young entrepreneurs and wealthy business people are ignoring the naysayers and reimagining your future. Your riverfront is no longer an industrial wasteland, but a place where families can stroll on a beautiful summer day. New gardens arise from the ashes of your old buildings. There is a new energy within your boundaries that is becoming infectious. You will survive, as you have always done before.
So today, when you blow out your candles and make your wish, remember that there are countless people who share your hopes and dreams. You will live to realize better things.