Welcome to Pittsburgh (Part I)

Pittsburgh doesn't have a large population of newcomers, but non-natives do move here. Because I'm tired of blogging about the news, and because others do that better and more thoroughly than I can, this post kicks off an occasional series: What Newcomers Should Know About Pittsburgh.

Today's Topic: Tradition

One of the great strengths of Pittsburgh, and of Western Pennsylvania as a whole, is that it is suffused with an extraordinary sense of its history. A century ago, Pittsburgh was a world-beating industrial community. The thousands of people drawn to the city from abroad created vibrant populations of new Americans. The captains of Pittsburgh industry amassed extraordinary wealth, much of which was used to develop and re-develop the city's infrastructure and cultural resources and to support Pittsburgh's political establishment. Importantly, immigrant populations that served as Pittsburgh's working backbone established rich, dynamic neighborhood-based communities, and an ethos of pride, modesty, and self-reliance. In many ways large and small, Pittsburgh set the standard nationally for enlightened government, thriving local communities, and honest and respectful individualism.

Now that's a highly simplified and romanticized account, but I'll let it stand. What I want to note is this: While large-scale manufacturing has largely disappeared, the immigrant populations have aged, and local government is often less than enlightened, the senses of community and individual pride, modesty, and self-reliance that were established a century ago remain powerful today, among all those born and raised in Pittsburgh and especially among those with more than one generation based here. Pittsburgh's historical industrial wealth continues to be reflected in support for culture and infrastructure. The whole town or neighborhood turns out on Friday night, and on Sunday, we run first, pass second, and stick to the fundamentals on defense. Tradition counts for a lot in Pittsburgh, and it counts for a lot because it reflects pride in what the region, city, and community once was, sometimes still is, and what it hopes again to be, someday. Moving to Pittsburgh and succeeding -- in business, in school, in the community -- means learning about Pittsburgh's traditions and the history that gave rise to them, and then respecting and working with tradition as the city changes.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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