250 Birthday Candles

Amid inaugural public celebrations of Pittsburgh 250th year that run from dry to drier, don't miss Ken Thompson's letter to the editor of the Post-Gazette:
Pittsburgh's 250th birthday is clearly upon us. We have a year of exciting events to look forward to.

A line from Kate Dewey's Jan. 6 Forum piece "Past as Prologue" struck me and, I think, bears scrutiny. She wisely suggests that we "cannot afford to be insular and parochial." Yet, I wonder if our approach to the 250th has not been just that.

Who besides ourselves are we inviting to the celebrations? A good Pittsburgh birthday party usually involves good friends and family in equal measure -- people who care about us and who we care about.

Whom are Pittsburgh's "good friends and family?" Let's start with family. Our parents come from every distant shore -- we are a child of the world. Clearly Eastern Pennsylvania is our oldest sibling, if a bit estranged. Since our birthday is also the birth of the gateway to the west, the cities and towns of the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys are our younger siblings. We have close cousins in every industrial and post-industrial region in America and distant ones in similar regions around the globe.

Our friends -- people who have been touched by Pittsburgh, its story and its people -- stretch the world over. It seems to me that, in celebrating ourselves, we are celebrating them, too. Perhaps we should let them know that, and specifically invite them, to rekindle our deep historic relationships. We have a lot of candles to blow out and could use their help. Roll out the carpet and roll out the barrel!

In short, the risk evident in Pittsburgh 250 is that the region veers madly from inward-looking self-flagellation ("Our navel is a terrible navel") to inward-looking vamping and preening ("Hey, our navel is pretty great!"). Pittsburgh's birthday isn't just about us. It's about reaching out.


1 Response to "250 Birthday Candles"

Frank said... 1/08/2008 3:57 PM

Great letter to the editor, and great sentiment. Getting the word out on Pittsburgh 250 can be a great boon to the region.

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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.

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