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VOL. 7 | NO. 6 | Saturday, February 1, 2014

Editorial: Let Graduates Know Memphis Needs Them

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There are times when it seems what we need isn’t so much a way to draw tourists to the city as an effort that includes keeping our young adults in Memphis or getting them to return.

But that isn’t nearly as easy a path as it seems.

And the comments of three young women we talked to about “the choice” in this week’s cover story show how easily this can all stray into irrelevance.

It is unrealistic to expect that someone who is about to complete their formal education with a college degree of some kind isn’t going to want to look at the full range of what is out there in the world.

And it often begins on a college campus outside Memphis. College experiences can take the soon-to-be graduate not just to other parts of the country but other parts of the world.

This is not their parents’ post-graduation decision.

Perhaps the larger question we should be considering is how much of the outside world that our 20- and 30-somethings experience elsewhere are we willing to let into what can be a significantly insular city when it comes to change.

Memphis can be a very hard place to try the things that at least hold the promise to make it easier to live day-to-day life as well as commit to Memphis.

The concept of “paying dues” to call Memphis home is taking a toll.

The concept ranges from the lack of public transportation that could be something people choose to use as well as have to use, to cracking the code of committing your child’s education to public schools in an environment fraught with more change than any other city in America at the moment.

Meanwhile, we are drawing college graduates from other parts of the country who come here precisely because of the challenge of teaching in schools that are under performing in terms of student achievement. They are being recruited to come to Memphis because of the achievement gap and many of them can’t wait to get here.

We believe the lesson isn’t minimizing challenges or papering over them. This is our most critical audience. We are talking about people who have grown up in Memphis and who know the city deeper than Graceland, Beale Street and music museums – good, bad and in between. This isn’t a selling job.

Memphis shouldn’t be where you fall back to when things don’t work out in your first or second choice of where to live. It should be able to become the first choice with the realization that the choice may be changed along the course of a life by other factors.

The lesson is to give our most critical audience a role in meeting our challenges with a realistic expectation that they can make a difference in their city. That is how Memphis becomes their city again.

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