There is an old adage that "actions speak louder than words." And I think that's probably right. I can promise you that I will do something all day long, but providing evidence that I am doing it carries considerably more weight. Some tragic things have happened in Memphis (and outside of Memphis) in 2014 that could be interpreted as setbacks for our reputation, but that is because we all know that negativity demands the spotlight. If an outsider was judging Memphis based on comments, words or published articles, he or she might get the idea that Memphis isn't a place to establish roots.
Fortunately, words can tell a very limited story.
I am the Ghost of Memphis Past. When you come to town, I want you to promise me you will do a few things. First, go check out the National Civil Rights Museum. I want you to know that Memphis acknowledges and reveres the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement and places this important time period on a pedestal - not because it is a proud memory - but because it was a real memory with echoes that permeate our streets today. We are working on it. Next, go to an old recording studio. Learn about the history of Memphis music. Try to tap into the vibe and soul that went into these songs and how they became their own iconic sound. People still travel from far and wide to experience it.
I am the Ghost of Memphis Present. When you come in town, I want you to experience the Memphis Grizzlies. You need to watch two games. The first one needs to be in the Fed Ex Forum, lovingly dubbed "The Grindhouse." You need to feel the pulse of the city and then ask yourself if it feels negative. Folks from all walks of life unite in that building to root on a team and a community. There is no larger display of civic pride than a Grizzlies home game. You need to experience the second game in a bar. This will show you just how deeply basketball loyalty runs in this city. People might stay out for a triple overtime game against the reigning National Champion San Antonio Spurs on a weeknight, and I promise you it will be something to behold. We have entire organizations dedicated to city pride like Choose901, I Love Memphis, and Operation Tucci. You'll want to look into those because they all have something positive to say about Memphis, and they've demanded the spotlight as well.
I am the Ghost of Memphis Future. I look like Hotel Chisca. I look like IKEA. I look like a pyramid-shaped Bass Pro Shops. I look like a Church Health Center. I look like a perennially successful NBA team. I look like a revitalized Binghampton neighborhood. I look like college graduates accepting job offers to Memphis-based companies. I look like a bike-friendly city. I look like education reform. I look like a paradigm-shift.
Paradigm shifts take both words and actions. Actions speak louder, but words are not without influence. I can write all day long about why I love Memphis, but it takes getting out into the community and living Memphis to undergo a real transformation. When people are able to accomplish that, they inevitably find a way to stay. Admitting a love for Memphis is not an admission that our city is perfect. Admitting a love for Memphis is a commitment to embracing its history, participating in its present and investing in its future. If people commit to these actions, and I bet you'll start to see a change in their words.