The Secret of Our Success

Can you hold you breath for 2 days?

As we count down to the G-20 summit, residents I have spoken with in recent days are expressing a mix of excitement and apprehension.  Displaying a sense of both fear and anticipation.

As the days go by, we hear  about the city’s plans to keep G-20 safe. We have heard about the closing of the downtown area, you see the jersey barriers on the side streets and you hear more and more about the protestors and what they may or may not do.

Seems the prevailing wisdom from those who live and work around town is to close the doors and leave for a two-day vacation … hoping they return to a city that looks much the same as it did when they leave.

However, in making way for G-20 wave, I fear we might deny the world leaders and their entourage perhaps the greatest part of the story of Pittsburgh: its people. Sure, President Obama will want to share the achievements of Pittsburgh, it’s transformation from “Steel Town” to “Green Town”. He and wife Michelle will host world leaders and show them Phipps Conservatory and the Convention Center. But will these world leaders get to see the people of Pittsburgh.

I’m not talking about the mayor and government leaders and I’m not talking about local protestors. I’m speaking of the everyday people who call Pittsburgh home. Those that serve food in our diverse restaurants and stores. Those people who walk through our parks and neighborhoods. I’m referring those folks who are the muscle behind the city that moved from an industry in decline to a city on the rise. I’m talking about Pittsburghers.

g20If I had the President’s ear, I would tell him into include in his two day field trip a jaunt with the world’s heavyweights to the Strip District. I would encourage them to browse the shops and speak with the vendors … and then head to Primanti’s for the most interesting sandwich on Earth and an Iron City beer. In this local, they would hear the story of Pittsburgh from those that lived it.

I’m dreaming of course but I know once this summit is done, there will be people from other countries – powerful people – who may take me up on this offer. They will do it because I think they will be impressed with the city … and want to learn more in a less chaotic environment.

It will be a week to remember for Pittsburgh. I just hope the lasting memory for those coming to Pittsburgh for the summit won’t be just the buildings, the skyline and the high-end parties. I hope it will also be the people … if those people stick around and have the chance to talk to those who move the world.

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