The Spirit of Detroit
This November I have a speaking engagement at historic Cobo Center in my native city of Detroit, Michigan. You’ve heard me talk about my early years growing up in the Detroit area—from the foster homes to the university. Forty-two years ago, when Cobo Center was called Cobo Hall, I received my doctorate from Wayne State University in this same downtown events center on the banks of the Detroit River. Even though I was born in Detroit and used to tell my kids that Wayne State was named after me, I’m really only a humble observer of this great American city.
Albert Cobo, who gave his name to the center where I’ll be speaking, was mayor of Detroit when I was a kid. One of my first jobs was distributing flyers about Albert Cobo to the houses in my neighborhood. As for Wayne State University and Wayne County where Detroit is located, both were named for the Revolutionary War general known as “Mad Anthony” Wayne. My kids actually believed my story about the university being my namesake—at least for a while!
From motorcars to music, Detroit has always been a town for innovation and creativity. Now, after decades of economic upheaval, I have heard stories of native Detroiters returning home to help rebuild the city. Empty houses are turning into artists’ studios and empty lots where houses once stood are becoming community gardens. This is love in action. A community is a network of people—family, friends, neighbors—whose lives are connected by shared presence. Love connects us and builds the kind of spirit that we will have with us always.
Lately, I’ve had occasion to think about my connection to Detroit—my brother Dave’s wonderful book about our early years there and the celebration of my mother Hazel’s life, much of it spent living and working in the Detroit area. In November, Dave will be with me at Cobo Center as well as my daughter, Skye. How many other friends and family members will be present in our evening community? If you can make it, I’d love to see you there. I don’t get to Michigan very often these days so this will be a memorable night.
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