I was born in Milwaukee. I love Milwaukee. However, after living in different places around the U.S., I have observed something inherent in cities the size of Milwaukee's metro area. It has to do with what I might call an inferiority complex. And it is holding us back.
Among the areas where I have lived, it was in Kansas City where it became most clear. Kansas City has a metropolitan area similar to Milwaukee. And they both have developed an unsure feeling about themselves.
I remember casually meeting a K.C. resident one of the first days in the area. She detected in my speech that I was not from the Kansas City area. She asked me what I thought of K.C. As I hesitated to comment, she immediately interjected, "Kind of a cow town, isn't it?" That question came to typify many regional self-evaluations that followed as I moved about the U.S. It was quite clear especially between Milwaukee and Kansas City. Yet I loved living in both cities.
Locals in both cities could tell you wonderful things about their hometowns. But they tempered much of their commentary with almost apologizing for not being New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles. In some ways K.C. and Milwaukee saw themselves at on the fringe of the "big leagues."
How unfortunate that is. How damaging it can be. How much we limit our present and our future with this hesitancy to see ourselves as more than sufficient in providing much in our own metro areas. The problem is made more difficult when surrounding areas and suburbs do not see how they are also tied to the success of the main city they are near.
I have lived in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Washington DC, and Virginia. I have traveled extensively throughout North America and Europe. Let me be very clear: Milwaukee and Kansas City are wonderful metro areas. And both are truly "big league." Let's stop apologizing and get on with creating for ourselves a glorious future.