Pessimistic #STL: How Negativity Is Keeping St. Louis From Success

Michael Kelley

I have grown up in St. Louis and attended Duchesne High School in St. Charles. I am 38 and, for the past 10 years, I have made the choice to live in downtown St. Louis. I stress the word choice, because the reality for me, as well as the majority of people who grew up in St. Louis, is that opportunities for success seem to lie in another city.

In other words, real success can only be achieved outside of our regional borders. This is not something I learned in college or from traveling around the country. Nor is it something that I picked up from a chamber of commerce pamphlet from Chicago or San Francisco. No, this pessimistic view of the region has slowly become the consensus among our regional leaders. By those who possess the power, and platform, to challenge and ultimately change this misperception.

Whether it be this paper (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), the elected leadership of this region, or daily conversations with some St. Louis residents, I am often reminded of our region’s limitations. For instance, I am often told point-blank that “St. Louis will never have something like that” or that “we will never get that company to relocate to St. Louis and build their new plane here” and “That national convention will never choose St. Louis we are being used as a Trojan horse in the bidding process.”

I do not believe in this type of pessimism. Having grown up in the St. Louis area, I fell in love with this place and I am proud to call it my home. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and tell that 15-year-old old boy to look elsewhere in life. Why, you might ask?

Because this pessimistic attitude has become so pervasive in this region, that it has turned these thoughts and fears into a reality. No matter what opportunity presents itself, whether it be the Democratic National Convention, Boeing 777X plane production facility, ADM moving its headquarters to St. Louis, the Rams possibly moving cities, or even the notion of crafting effective regional governance, all of these events are met with the pessimistic ball bat upside the head.

Maybe it is this pessimistic attitude that convinced our prodigal son Jack Dorsey to go elsewhere to achieve his vision for Twitter, a vision that was inspired on the streets of south St. Louis. Could it be that having a positive attitude, that something can be achieved in St. Louis, is the missing ingredient?

Areas that the St. Louis region once looked down upon, like Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Charleston, Indianapolis and countless others, have changed their pessimistic outlook and are now working to attain things that many told them were not possible. And guess what? They are growing their region and gaining civic pride. All of these cities in one way or another were once considered second-class cities. However, they are changing this perception. They are working together with a positive attitude and making things happen, one win at a time. They do not dwell on the one they lose; instead, they focus on the one they might win.

One place we the people of St. Louis do not have this pessimistic attitude is when it comes to our Cardinals. With the Cardinals, we are all-in, invested in seeing our boys of summer carry our hopes on the ball field. But, I ask you why? While, the Cardinals win a lot, they win less than the St. Louis area does or even could. We need to stop placing the value of our region solely in the success of a baseball team. We must stop remembering our best days in terms of the World’s Fair, something that occurred more than a hundred years ago. Maybe with the right attitude, and approach, our best days may still lie ahead.

More from Michael Kelley

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