I’ve lived in Atlanta since I was about five years old. Like most people, I’m a transplant from the North, with family roots in Chicago and New York and none in the South.
If I’m being honest, while growing up the allure of Chicago and New York always left me with the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Those cities are massive and bustling, and surrounded by water and bridges. The rich culture and history of them excited me. Seeing the old buildings was unique given that not many buildings in Atlanta are older than Sherman’s pyrotechnics display back in 1864.
I was even excited about the cold weather and snow that you get in those cities. When I was younger we’d travel north for a week during the winter, typically around Christmas, and enjoy all the benefits of snow – sledding, snowball fights, ice skating – and none of the downsides.
But my entire life and career have been in Atlanta and over time I’ve really come to love this city. Through my work I’ve been able to work with some real Atlanta institutions – technology work with Georgia Tech, launching the first Georgia Aquarium website, digitally rebranding the city (Brand Atlanta), social consulting with the Chamber of Commerce, digital agency of record for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, and even helping to launch the arena football team, the Georgia Force.
I also sit on several Atlanta boards and participate in multiple technology incubator / start-up accelerators in hopes of helping Atlanta leave its stamp on the national tech scene.
However, it wasn’t until I was selected to be a member of the Leadership Atlanta class of 2013 that I started to really become interested in Atlanta and its history, and ultimately what the city means to me personally.
The Leadership Atlanta program, of which we’re currently about a month in, is going to open my eyes to the past, present and future of Atlanta. Concurrently, I’ve started reading what seems to be the de facto history book of Atlanta, Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn. Truth be told, when I started the book I wasn’t sure I would be able to get through it, so I made a pact with a few other members of my Leadership Atlanta class to read the first 40 pages by this coming Friday. To my surprise, I’m almost through 140 pages and I can’t put it down.
What’s fascinating to me is all the names that, if you live in Atlanta, you hear all the time but you really don’t understand the historical context of them. Candler Park, Woodruff Arts Center, Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd, Inman Park, etc.
Even how the name of Atlanta came to be. Originally Atlanta was named Terminus and then later changed to Marthasville (named after Governor Lumpkin’s daughter). But as Atlanta was a railroad hub, it turns out the name, Marthasville, was too long for the railroad tickets so they needed to change it. Atlantica-Pacifica was an option due to the hope that the city would be a transportation hub for the country, but it was shortened (again due to the space on the tickets) to simply, Atlanta. Thank God for that.
I know there is a good chance this is very boring to almost everyone reading this and I apologize in advance, because its probably going to continue for a while. I’ve always tried to share my daily thoughts and feelings on this blog, and through the Leadership Atlanta process I am quite certain I’m going to learn more and more about Atlanta and continue to be enamored by learning more about this city that I call home. And I’ll likely be sharing that experience here.
Tomorrow is “Race Day”, which is a 2-day program and the first official part of the programming component of Leadership Atlanta. I hear that its incredibly powerful and for many people “life changing”. I intend to go into it with eyes wide open and experience it for everything that it is.