“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit.”
Coach, Vince Lombardi
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The RNC is our opportunity to show the world that Clevelanders are the best America has to offer.
As I have told my children, this is the greatest time to be a Clevelander in the past 100 years or, arguably, ever.
Throughout my childhood and most of my adulthood (I’m 46) being a Clevelander was an exercise in taking it. Every year brought another horrible statistic, another joke, another business closing, another corporate headquarters relocating. Mix in an assortment of “near misses” and “not even close” attempts by our sports franchises and we reached a point where it seemed our veins were empty. We were the city of heartbreak. It was all we knew.
We Clevelanders had made losing a habit and it ruled our collective subconscious. We had lost control of the conversation. Remember the “brain drain?” My parents told me, run! (True story.) And every baby boomer we encountered in the early years of our agency warned us to have low expectations for success as a Cleveland business. They said there was no opportunity here. They labeled the land barren and warned us to seek greener pastures.
The one – two punch of the post 9/11 recession followed by the Great Recession said to Cleveland business, “go down and stay down” and like a cleansing rain, it drove the remaining Cleveland non-believers to the exits. Our agency, like so many local entrepreneurs, felt a duty to our hometown. We sought to take an active role in our city’s rise.
When the dust settled, those of us with the grit to get back up saw this community through a completely different lens. Where the boomers saw only blight and decline, we saw raw, untapped opportunity. So while the world looked the other way, we began to work together to craft a new conversation.
Like the pioneers who first set eyes upon this remarkably rich purchase of land embraced by fresh water and filled with trees, many of us said “Why not us?” “Why not this place?” We have everything that every successful city has ever had: proximity, ports, natural resources, a willing workforce, access to higher education, arts and a philanthropic community literally like no other. We have it all.
It has taken a decade of real heart and real hard work to create that new habit for us Clevelanders. So many people from so many disciplines – both public and private, hourly workers and billionaires – have taken part in creating the collective destiny that is now Cleveland. But our success is not solely a result of hard work. We have begun to collectively believe that “we can.” We have changed our collective subconscious.
Is it possible that we, Cleveland, a community with a collective winning mindset propelled the Cavs to an historic, odds defying victory? I say yes. That was us.
President Ronald Regan often talked about the “Shining City on the Hill” that not so distant vision that represented the best America had to offer. Well, congratulations, that’s us, that’s Cleveland. We dream, we work and we win together.
When the world asks what makes our nation great? The answer will be Clevelanders.
During the RNC, we Clevelanders need to remember that we are hosts, our city is the context within which our power, ideals and values will be on international display. We have been entrusted to be part of our American political process. We are not spectators – we have a civic duty to help communicate American strength and stability to the world in any way we can. This is a challenging assignment but it’s the one we worked for – we’ve earned it.
When we are done, the new global conversation about Cleveland will be set for decades to come. We have one shot to leverage this exposure. So we all have to answer the call and put politics and our fears aside. We were chosen for this because we are the best America has to offer. When the world asks, “what makes this nation great?”, I believe the answer will be Clevelanders.
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