I'm born and raised in Alabama, and I’m proud of it.
My state has been home to amazing writers, thinkers, scientists, artists, and people who have strived to make our world a better place.
Hank Williams and Hank Aaron. Helen Keller and Harper Lee.
George Washington Carver and Rosa Parks. Hugo Black and Eugene Walter.
From the Appalachian mountains in the northeast corner to our own Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, she’s a state filled with bountiful natural resources and intense beauty.
We helped send mankind to the moon, gave the world peanut butter and birthed one of the creators of Wikipedia, which we all use from time to time.
Our people maintain a fierce stubbornness, living up to our state motto that “We dare defend our rights,” though you’d also be pressed to find a state filled with nicer people - people who still bring enough food to feed an army if someone is sick or has passed, folks who volunteer to cook pancakes or barbecue for every fundraiser imaginable.
We pack the church pews on Sunday and praise the Lord, even though some us may have been packing the Flora-Bama just a few hours before lifting up the virtues of Jack Daniels.
We keep our fridges stocked with sweet tea and our porches full of rocking chairs and good company, enjoying the hum of the ceiling fan above us and the din of the conversation.
However, Alabama has also been home to startling injustice, intolerance, and events that should make us equal parts furious and depressed.
George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door. The Birmingham Church Bombing.
Guy Hunt and Don Siegelman. Robert Bentley and Mike Hubbard.
It’s often remarked that our state is “first in everything we should be last in, and last in everything you want to be first in.”
We become the butt of a nationwide joke every time something awful or scandalous happens, as we somehow manage to play into stereotypes the rest of the nation and world has already created for us.
We’re just “those ignorant rednecks” that don’t know any better to them, and they think we’re desperately clinging to a past we can’t accept no longer exists.
Especially given recent news events, the eyes of the nation and world are on our state, and we’re tasked with a political decision that isn’t just about Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. It’s about basic moral tenets and the idea of right and wrong.
Our worst should not define us, but we have to be willing to disavow our worst and strive to grow and improve.
We must ask ourselves the difficult questions and be willing to accept answers that may take us out of our comfort zones and bring new ways of living or thinking.
Alabama deserves better, but we have to be willing to demand better before we can get it.
Alabama is a great place, but we can make it even greater if we choose to do so.
It’s time we get out of our own way, and show the world what we know we can be.