Lighting the Path Ahead

From time to time, I like to resubmit articles that evoked a strong reaction from readers. Here is one such article from last year… 

One of the best things you can have in life is “a good name.” I’m not talking about a name that is pleasant to the ear, but rather a name that conjures the respect and admiration of others. Whether you are a public figure or a private citizen, most people want to be well-regarded by their peers. Most businesses and organizations are the same—they want a good reputation. They would do almost anything to build and protect their brand name. I contend that a good reputation is just as essential to a community.

 

Q: I am always hearing people run down Okmulgee. Why does Okmulgee have so many critics? 

A: For far too long, residents of Okmulgee have endured abusive insults and put downs about our town. I realize there is a certain merit in not overreacting to name callers—“sticks and stones” after all. But there is a cumulative effect from persistent name calling. Negative perceptions can become unflattering realities. Over time, many have begun to believe there is something wrong with Okmulgee. Some have simply accepted the narrative that everything about Okmulgee is bad and nothing good can ever happen here. But when we begin to believe such rumors, we begin to react dismissively about our community and the rumors become true—we actually help the negative stereotypes become reality.

I get very tired of hearing people run down Okmulgee, and I suspect many of you feel the same way. It is even more intolerable when the putdowns come from people who owe their livelihoods to this town—those who live or work in Okmulgee. Can’t they see what damage they are doing to themselves and the entire community?

I think more of us should adopt an attitude that says “when you speak ill of my town, you speak ill of me.” When you run down Okmulgee, you demean me and everyone else who lives, works, or attends college in Okmulgee, and I’m not okay with that. When you put down our schools, our businesses, or the appearance of our town, you insult me and all my neighbors.  

When you knock Okmulgee, you discredit the good name of all our institutions and make it harder for them to operate. You devalue OSUIT, the MCN Tribal Complex, every Okmulgee- based business and industry, and every organization in town. When you attack one of us you attack all of us. When you rundown Okmulgee, your comments reflect badly on an entire community, every ethnic group, every property owner, every family, every man, woman, and child. When you say derogatory things about Okmulgee, you dishonor our past, defame our present, and diminish our future, and I’m really not okay with that.

My mother always told me, “If you can’t say something nice, then say nothing at all.” I still find this to be good advice today, especially for those who want to run down Okmulgee. Please continue to forward your questions to osuit-president@okstate.edu

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Dr. Bill R. Path is president of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology and board member of Okmulgee Main Street Inc. 

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