My hope is this progression will be our generation’s next defining moment.
I was born and raised in St. Louis, as were my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. We’re a multi-generational St. Louis family, with each generation intentionally choosing to live, work and raise our families here. Quite simply, we love and believe in St. Louis—it’s home.
While times were obviously different for each succeeding branch of my family, I know there were defining moments for my ancestors, just as there were for me. I remember our neighborhood was connected to what seemed like a million other neighborhoods, and our parents sent us outside to play for hours at a time.
We spent days riding bikes and playing baseball, pretending to be our favorite baseball players. Sometimes we rode out to Spencer’s 5 and 10. This not only built strong memories, but significant bonds within our communities. I also remember family outings, and my favorite was going to Cards baseball games one-on-one with my dad, then stopping at Ted Drewes for frozen custard on the way home.
It doesn’t get much more St. Louis than that. I was about 10 when I started noticing some differences in our community. My elementary school had kids from all over St. Louis, from the county to the inner city. It didn’t register until about fifth grade that some of my fellow students were waking up at 4:45 in the morning so they could attend a county school.
They would tell stories about hearing gunshots and running into their parents’ rooms—but they spoke about it like it was a regular occurrence. I suddenly realized we inhabited very different worlds even though we lived in the same city. One of our biggest challenges today is the same as it was then—the disconnect between these two worlds.
We need to work toward a unified vision and goal for what we want our community to look like, from downtown to the county to all the municipalities. There’s room and need for many voices to collectively figure out the end game and then work to achieve it as a cohesive region. A leader’s job is to help people achieve their goals to the best of their ability.
As a business leader and community advocate, this issue is front and center with me. I know some people are discouraged about the present reality in St. Louis, but I would encourage them to not give up hope. There are many people you never see or hear about who are working every day to make St. Louis a better place. And things are starting to happen that we never thought possible. Important conversations are taking place. People are acknowledging that we have to do this together because a rising tide lifts all ships.
I’m extremely optimistic about our future. By nature, people can become hung-up on what happens day-to-day. You can feel like you didn’t make as much progress as you wanted, but every action helps. Real change in our city won’t happen overnight—it will take years to achieve. I want St. Louis to prosper in technology, to lead in the medical fields, to land Fortune 500 companies and build businesses. I also want us to not lose what made St. Louis great for me growing up.
I want us to keep our values and ethics and sense of community. I want us to enjoy the moments. I hope we can all take a step back and appreciate what we have already accomplished. And let’s not forget that we can have fun along this journey. I tell my kids it’s important to recognize our mistakes and to learn from them, but it’s also important to not be too hard on yourself. I want my kids to appreciate their growth and enjoy their journeys.
Too often, as adults we think, “If I could just get there,” and we don’t pause to appreciate where we already are. While we work hard to address our challenges, we have wonderful, amazing things to take pride in. My hope is this progression will be our generation’s next defining moment.
Dear Lou, this is for you,
Peter Blumeyer President – UMB Bank St. Louis