Michigan is a state of two identities, with an often troubled but incredible history. To be a Michigander is to know the crunch of snow under your feet and the blistering heat of summer. It is to know the scent of pines and the noise of industry. We love the roar of our cars and the gentle lapping of lakeside breakers. Around the country, most people know us as the home of factories and freeways, but we have another side and we are so much more.
I meet people from Michigan whenever I travel. We are drawn to one another. Maybe it’s the Vernor’s in our hands or the Tigers cap on our heads. Whatever it may be, we Michiganders are a hearty and proud bunch and we are spread out all over the world. I have met snowbirds down south, young explorers out west, urban entrepreneurs out east, and dreamers on the California coast...all from Michigan. I have never known another group of people so simultaneously eager to venture away, but so fiercely proud of their home state.
We have a few quirks. We are hundreds of miles from an ocean, but we have more coastline than any other state in the lower 48. We love road trips but we live on peninsulas, which are geographically inconvenient for such things. We have a lilt in our accent that we don’t recognize ourselves, but which can get you mistaken for a Canadian when you are far from our northern border. We are a hard-working, fun-loving, tough but tender community.
We are a swing state politically, with no clear tendency to vote one way or another from one generation to the next. We have a history of honoring our natural landscapes but stressing them under the weight of production and overdevelopment. We are divided into two peninsulas but are joined by the Mighty Mac. We are a state of contradictions.
What is it that makes us a single community? We are diverse in our opinions, our traditions, and our ethnicity, but we are so clearly Michiganders...we are so clearly one. I believe that connection is the reason I get up for work every day; it is our landscape that makes us who we are.
Michiganders know the value of hard work, as living here can be a challenge. We are susceptible to swings in the economy, our weather is unpredictable, our terrain is challenging, and our climate is changing, but we soldier on. We know that it is worth it. Where else can you surf in freezing waters, hike into the forested wilderness, sun yourself on a world-class beach, go to the top of a skyscraper, and sail in the open water as if you are crossing an ocean? Nowhere but here.
Michigan pays us back with her beauty, her fertility, her waters, and her history. We must pay her back by caring for her. We love and value this place, and it is the only place of its kind. While we cautiously look for what comes next, in this litany of recent challenges, let’s honor our home by hiking her trails and observing her sunsets. Let’s volunteer to make a difference. Let’s pick up after ourselves and advocate for her preservation. Let’s help our neighbors and connect with our landscape.
The Wolverine State is our home, and it is our identity. It is our being a Michigander that will see us through, as it always has.
With hope for our community and an open heart,