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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2013/08/now-more-than-ever-say-nice-things-about-detroit-because-theyre-true/
2 August 2013
After weeks of press about Detroit’s bankruptcy, I am clearly not the only one who feels compelled to speak up, in response to the countless reports streaming in about Detroit, but not based on visiting and reporting from Detroit.
But I think I’ve got a different viewpoint.
The difference with my take on the story is that it is through the eyes of my 94-year-old friend, whom I will call Howard.
Howard is one of those people you feel honored and lucky to know and to be able to spend time with. He is 94, and has lived an extraordinary life filled with success in business, and a legacy of philanthropic generosity that has made a huge difference in the world both locally and in Michigan.
My afternoon was full of lessons I thought worthy of sharing with you.
A typical visit with Howard usually involves lunch in Ann Arbor, but this day was different. By the time our date came about, Detroit had filed for bankruptcy. So Howard and I decided to spend the afternoon driving around downtown Detroit – the last time he had been there was over 15 years ago – to see what was really going on.
To sum up Howard’s reaction: He was blown away. Seeing it through his eyes, it reaffirmed what I have been seeing on my many visits in recent years – a city that is working hard at transforming itself. It shows, and there is much to be excited about.
We saw the new Meijer and Whole Foods, and many other stores you would expect in any major urban area across the country. We drove by the beautiful Detroit riverfront, where people were riding bicycles, reading on benches, strolling with baby carriages, and laughing while their children enjoyed a ride on the merry-go-round. We circled Comerica Park and Ford Field and drove out to the Detroit Institute of Arts on Woodward Avenue, admiring the new beautiful lighting, sidewalks and storefronts along the way. Across from Compuware’s world headquarters, Campus Martius Park was filled with pedestrians, people lunching at tables under bright sun umbrellas, and we saw music stages there and at the riverfront for concerts.
Howard was awestruck and, simply put, he could not reconcile it with what he has been hearing and reading about Detroit. He admitted he had not been motivated to come downtown in recent years, given the stories he reads about the Motor City.
“If I had known how great it looked, I would have come!” he said.
If I had a nickel for every time Howard said “My gosh, I can’t believe how beautiful it looks” and “Detroit needs to get the word out about this…Detroit needs a new public relations campaign to tell the truth,” I could substantially contribute to Detroit’s comeback efforts.
Here is what I learned:
First, if you haven’t been to downtown Detroit, go. Don’t form your opinions by reading reports from people who haven’t even been there.
Second, join Howard in his new public relations campaign for Detroit. He plans to tell everyone he can about what he saw and that we all need to spread the word.
Howard plans to be part of the solution now, and so should we. Taking the lead from The Center for Michigan’s own project, which calls out distortions in Michigan’s political world, he plans to be his own “Detroit Truth Squad” with his friends. He isn’t the only one – this week the Detroit Free Press announced its plans to do the same.
And lastly, don’t wait so long to spend a day with a friend – especially a friend who has done a lot of living and has a lot of wise advice and observations to share. It is the best way to spend a day. We should all be inspired by my 94-year-old friend’s response to discovering the real Detroit.