We've got a lot going for us in Oklahoma, but we could be doing so much more to make it even better.
Oklahoma was the 46th state admitted to the Union and, unfortunately, 108 years later, in many ways we're still 46th, 48th, or 49th.
We consistently bring up the rear in some very important quality-of-life rankings and I've long asked myself why we're satisfied with that?
So I'm going looking for those who are working to make Oklahoma so much more.
You've seen the quality of life rankings.
Among the 50 states, we're 44th for obesity, 40th for diabetes, 48th in smoking, 46th for heart attacks, 42nd for high blood pressure, 48th for the number of primary care physicians leaving us 46th overall in national health.
We're in the top ten among the least educated states, 42nd for the number of adults with bachelor's degrees, which helps lead to our 44th ranking in median household income, and a quality of life ranking of 45th.
Our public school funding per student puts us at 47, our average teacher pay at 48. We are first for the largest cuts to education since the beginning of the Great Recession, 24 percent of the state budget for public schools, gone, over the past six years.
Which gives us an overall education ranking of 48th in the nation; there's nothing OK about any of it.
So are we doomed by geography, culture or history to languish at the bottom? And why do we accept it?
For the rest of their lives, my two boys, when they're asked where they're from, will answer "Oklahoma," and when they do, I want them to be proud of it.
I want the person asking to think, "Oklahoma, that's the state that's moving ahead. That's the state that's doing it right."
So I've gone looking for those who, in small ways and large, are working to get us out of the national basement.
In Norman, there's the president of the state's flagship university. 21 years ago, with two years left in his third U.S. Senate term, David Boren came back home because he saw a chance to use the University of Oklahoma as the state's spark plug.
“If you want to improve this state, if you want to move it forward, in what do you invest? Education's at the head of the list,” Boren said.
Sandra Armstrong would love to help her neighbors in Sand Springs eat healthier; if only she could get them to show up for her free potluck dinners.
I think it's time for people to be able to see that there's something else out there other than the norm,” she said.
Finally there's Darrell Williams, a heart attack waiting to happen, which is why he enrolled in Dr. Mark Fox's Heart Improvement Program at north Tulsa's Tisdale Clinic.
“Man, it's a lifesaver,” Williams said.
He's come a long way, with a long way to go; but he doesn't want to add to our state's lousy health numbers.
He's 54, and headed for an early death, but with Fox's help, he's trying to turn his life around.
“One of the goals for both OU School of Community Medicine and here at the Tisdale Clinic is to throw out the playbook and say, 'OK, how do we do things differently,'” Fox said.
Because doing things differently is the only way to make “So Much More” of Oklahoma.
In the weeks and months ahead, you'll meet each of those Oklahomans, and I hope many more.
If you know of someone that is working, in small ways or large, to turn our state around then you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let me know why you think we lag as we do, and what we should do to turn it around, to make Oklahoma "So Much More."