I always enjoy hearing why people moved to Georgia.
Both my wife and I have family lineage in Georgia going back generations, so it was natural for us to settle here. It’s just home. But tens of thousands of people also move to our state every year, driving growth that amounts to roughly a million people a decade. That trend has lasted nearly half a century.
This week, many newcomers will celebrate their first Thanksgiving in Georgia – or will gather with family elsewhere as Georgians for the first time. I wonder what about their new home makes them thankful? My organization is collecting such stories, and we’d love for those of you who moved to Georgia in the past few years to contact us at GeorgiaPolicy.org.
In the meantime, here are a few of the things that make me thankful to be a Georgian.
Let’s start with what preceded James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia almost 300 years ago, and all other humans for that matter: a diversity of natural beauty. We have mountains and beaches. We have fertile plains, thick forests and mighty rivers. And we have managed to grow economically while preserving natural resources ranging from Atlanta’s canopy to the barrier islands on our coast; the fate of the Okefenokee Swamp is another occasion for that balance to be struck and the irreplaceable to be protected. We have rivals among the other states, but few if any can top all of that.
The things humans have built also make Georgia great. There are the ancient mounds of the Etowah and the Ocmulgee, and the early British military outposts along the coast. There is old Savannah and New Echota. There is one of the country’s great metropolises, and the small-town culture of our rural lands. There are storied military installations and high-caliber universities.
Georgia’s history represents all that is tragic and triumphant in America’s story, with ample opportunity to learn from both. The Trail of Tears started here. Slavery brutalized thousands here, before a brutal blow was delivered here to eradicate it. Jim Crow festered here. But then, Martin Luther King, Jr. was also raised here. The “Atlanta Way” was forged here. The Summer Olympics were staged here, in part to recognize, again, how a new South had emerged here.
Yes, there is still more work to do here.
Speaking of life’s rich pageant: Our music spans from the alternative rock of R.E.M. to the hip-hop of Outkast, from the soul of Ray Charles to the country of Alan Jackson. Our authors include Alice Walker and Flannery O’Connor, our characters Br’er Rabbit and Scarlett O’Hara. Our cuisine comprises peach cobbler and pecan pie, fried chicken and fried green tomatoes, boiled peanuts and collard greens, sweet tea and Coca-Cola. Our culture is one of breadth and depth.
But as wonderful as the things on that list and more might be, they probably aren’t the things that attract most people to Georgia. Put simply, people come to Georgia for opportunity.
They come for college and for jobs. They come to work for big companies, and for start-ups that may become big companies. They come because the cost of living is good, and so is the quality of life. They come for low taxes and the right to work.
They come for reasons that didn’t happen by accident. They come for reasons that have been carefully nurtured through smart, forward-looking public policy. That may sound boring, but it’s true. And the boring things often make all the difference in this life.
I’m thankful for both the boring and the exciting in Georgia, the flashy and the profound, the hurtful truths we learn from the past and the uplifting promises we hold for the future. I’m thankful for all of these things, because they make our shared home the kind of place we’re glad to share.