America’s greatness is not created in a Twitter profile. It’s not spoken at press conferences and cannot be written concisely into any one speech.
But over the weekend, President-elect Trump took to Twitter to attack a great American – Rep. John Lewis – and the great American people he represents.
By personally attacking a congressman, Trump highlights his blatant misunderstanding of what makes a great American leader.
But by attacking the city of Atlanta, Trump highlights his unforgivable ignorance about what actually makes America great.
Atlanta isn’t typically listed as a quintessential ‘American’ city like New York, Chicago or Boston. But its spirit and energy are intrinsically American. Because the best of the American spirit works tirelessly and unapologetically for justice. The best of the American spirit embraces innovation. And while we aren’t a perfect city, Atlanta does perfectly embody these tenants that make America great.
The world knows the spirit of Atlanta through our music, our businesses and our airport. But the city’s true spirit is etched into the foundations of our individual neighborhoods and connects each resident – native or transplant – to our collective past. It is a city deeply rooted in its past, celebrating and learning from its unique history everyday. It knows of race wars and social justice battles; it has been divided before and is continually searching for new ways to unite again. It is home, or adopted home, to many of our nation’s bravest civil rights leaders. Their legacy is engrained in Atlanta’s spirit and is built into our infrastructure with The King Center, The Center for Civil and Human Rights and The Carter Center. Atlanta’s commitment to communal introspection is a strength and a necessary asset to grow a thriving 21st century city.
Upon this collective history, Atlanta is becoming one of the most innovative, forward-looking cities in America. It’s why so many Fortune 500 Companies still call it home. It’s why startups and small businesses and entertainment groups are creating new hubs here. Atlanta’s commitment to innovation makes it possible for the city to foster some of the best and brightest in the fields of financial, bio-medical and informational technologies.
It is a living, breathing testament to American ingenuity and the entrepreneurial fervor that propels the 21st century. It is a city on the rise, attracting top talent through educational opportunities, job prospects, and an evolving economy. It is a city being built by families and young professionals alike; it is a place strengthened by immigrants and refugees and faith communities of all kinds.
You can build a life here. You can build something great here. And that makes it a great American city.
It’s John Lewis’ home. An overwhelmingly popular representative for the last twenty years, he embodies the spirit of the March on Washington and the SNCC each day in his work to build a better Atlanta. He knows that it is far from a perfect place. We wake up everyday in a city with unfathomable income inequality. We still fail in many ways live up to the promise and vision of collective good. We haven’t cracked the code on population explosion. We are grappling with the harsh realities of gentrification.
But a city cannot be ‘horrible’ and ‘falling apart’ (as Trump seems to believe we are) so long as it has potential. And Atlanta has that – and so much more.
Atlanta has a history of movement. Now is our time to bring this movement to the rest of the country. Because of our history and because of our people, we are poised to lead in 2017. We are the city that can indeed teach America to be great. We have the battle scars of history etched on our streets; but we also have a collective energy in those streets that is generating a better future. America can learn a lot from the imperfect but growing city of Atlanta. You build a great city and create opportunity with innovation, inclusion and introspection. Because when you are innovative, you are the best version of an American. When you are inclusive, you help build up a better America. When you introspective, you believe that you and your community can help shape the future of America.
May Trump’s tweet be our collective call to action. Because attacking a member of Congress might be politics, but attacking a great American city is personal.
Let’s get in the way, Atlanta, and show what the American spirit really looks like.