Dear Lou, You have been my home for my entire life. I grew up close to the Central West End, went to St. Louis public schools, and even went to college here at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy.
As I look back on my years here, I have fond memories of my education, all your great food and restaurants, and cultural institutions. I remember field trips to the zoo, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Grant’s Farm, and St. Louis Symphony that broadened my horizons.
The St. Louis Science Center sparked my interest in science and medicine. If I could say one thing to you, it’s this: a rising tide lifts all boats. I think we’ve gotten away from the idea of community.
We need to understand that we are all interconnected. If a group of us fails, we’re all impacted by that failure as a place. How many large business opportunities has our region lost because of our crime and other issues?
If you look at other cities that are thriving, there seems to be less division and disparity between the haves and have-nots. Those are the cities that people and businesses are really flocking to. If we don’t address the fact that here in St. Louis, roughly 30% of Blacks live in poverty compared to roughly 9% of Whites, we’re not going to be able to move forward.
We have an opportunity in St. Louis to be a really thriving area but until we address the disparities that exist in healthcare, education, and economic opportunity, we will always struggle with crime and other challenges. It’s not about bringing anyone down.
It’s about raising others up to lift us all. There’s a lot we need to improve on. We need to improve our education system so that our children growing up can become successful adults, and so our businesses have the best possible talent.
As someone who has worked in healthcare my entire career, I’m especially passionate about removing the severe health disparities in our region. Our maternal and infant outcomes within the Black population are similar to those in third-world countries. That is unheard of in an area with so many great medical institutions.
We have some of the best hospitals in the nation. It doesn’t have to be this way—we can fix this. I think education and healthcare all are linked to economic mobility for individuals and communities. All of these things—education, health, businesses, jobs, a talented workforce—impact each other. We need to change our mindset if we want different results.
We lose a lot of talented, innovative, forward-thinking people to other cities because of our lack of innovative thinking. We need these people to help lead our region and help us thrive.
We need more leaders and organizations to be brave enough to say “this isn’t how it has to be… we can be better.” It seems like such an easy thing, but I don’t hear many people or organizations saying that in St. Louis at all.
We need to get out of this mentality that “this is just how things have always been.” We need to be uncomfortable. We need to be brave and innovative. I believe that’s the only way we can move forward. Sincerely, Kendra Holmes Chief Operating Officer, Affinia Healthcare