By Robert Mann
In a country with greater labor mobility than any other place in the world, why would any ambitious young person want to remain in Louisiana? Almost every other state promises more opportunity and a better quality of life.
We’re near the bottom in economic opportunity. We’re worst, or among the worst, in almost every category of child well-being. If it were simply a matter of economics, the right decision for most of our young people would be to hit the road.
Almost 30 years ago, in January 1985, I left Shreveport for Washington, D.C., to work on Capitol Hill. I was sure I’d never return. I was off to seek fortune and fame, doubting that such a backward place as Louisiana could offer me that. The state seemed devoid of opportunity, vision and tolerance.
After a few years of living among the well-educated, well-traveled, well-heeled Washington crowd, I grew homesick. I realized I was a stranger in a foreign land. I missed Louisiana’s food, its music, its lakes and streams and its unique and beguiling culture.
More than anything, I missed its people and their sincere hospitality. It took leaving to teach me that Louisiana was as genuine as Washington was superficial. I wanted to be among people who were just as dedicated to building community as their careers. My homesickness and love for a Louisiana girl brought me home.
Yet, in the 21 years since I returned, one could argue that our problems have multiplied. For example, we’re last among states with jobs requiring a college degree. Many educated young people who want to stay here – and most do – realize they simply cannot.
Perhaps, like me, you have teenagers. If so, I suspect you fear that it won’t be long before yours are seeking jobs in places like Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles or New York. Truth is, shouldn’t they? Wouldn’t they be better off?