We Gather from everywhere to build Team Florida
Chances are you were not born in Florida. Only a little more than a third of us were, placing Florida at the top of the list of states with the smallest percentage of native-born residents. By contrast, if you lived in Georgia, six out of 10 of your neighbors would be Georgia born. In Alabama and Mississippi, more than 70 percent were born in the state, and in Louisiana, that number reaches 80 percent.
It’s a lot easier intuiting your sense of place when you, and most of those around you, have for generations called the same place home.
But perhaps we should not think of being a vast state with a large and transitory population as a challenge, but as a strength. With our diversity comes a relentless energy to recreate ourselves as Floridians. We are part of an ancient tradition of creating something new here. Floridians adapt and adopt.
For decades, FORUM magazine and the Florida Humanities Council have tried to build an understanding of Florida — of its people, places, culture and history. Through the process of telling our stories of human experience, we better learn to understand ourselves and each other. And isn’t that the fundamental goal of the humanities; to tie us together and to the wisdom of the past?
My family moved here in the 1950s from Minnesota because Dad had a chance to work in the area’s new aerospace industry. My folks adapted to this world of sand and ocean and heat and growth, and ultimately adopted Florida — its food, history, literature, religion, music, and culture. They brought their significant skills to this state and died as Floridians. You don’t have to inherit a sense of place; you can develop one.
And this brings me to the primary theme of this FORUM edition, Hometown Teams.
Adopting your town often means you passionately embrace its teams. And as historian Steven Noll explains in his wonderful essay, there is a depth of Florida history seen through the lens of our obsession with our hometown teams.
And it’s not always football and basketball. In my Largo hometown, for example, we celebrated our state championship cross-country team and award-winning high school “Band of Gold” as enthusiastically as any more traditional sport.
Here is the truth: A significant number of us are not from Florida, yet we learn to love it here. We invest in this state with our time and treasure, with our hearts and minds. The humanities, with all its reach and depth, can help us build Team Florida.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of FORUM magazine.
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