There is something interesting about Portland that I think I am just now beginning to understand. I could be wrong, but I am beginning to think that the people of Portland actually value intelligence and skill over wealth. I knew something was different in this social realm, but I just couldn't put my finger on it until now. Keep in mind that I could be wrong, but my case is as follows:
1. Hobbies. As I wrote in an earlier blog, Portland libraries are full of people actually reading. The desks are full, and people are sitting on the floor. Even my little local library branch is full of readers. I think this points to a certain value for intelligence in this city. This is also a big hobby town where people are engaged in many different hobbies including arts/crafts, major organic gardening, environmentalism, poetry readings, technology, board games, live concerts, art market venues everywhere, bicycling, homeopathic medicine and cures, record album collecting, hiking, skiing, kayaking, camping, snow boarding, fishing, reading, and the list goes on and on. I think this points to a diverse population which prizes a person's individual interest and skills.
2. Education. In order to get most of my certifications in Oregon, I am having to take eight different education tests. I have taken tests in two states, but they were nothing like Oregon's test. Wow! These are difficult tests. I think they may have a higher standard for teachers in this state. Basically, this shows that they value education. I also find it interesting that during these tough times the Portland Public School District is reportedly not overly concerned because it has a huge amount of money set back for difficult times. I think that says something about a community when the school actually has surplus funds each year.
3. Wealth. I have been here for three months, and I just saw my first stretch limo the other night. In Tulsa, I saw limos quite often. It was not uncommon to see Mercedes, Porsche's, and BMW's driving the streets of Tulsa, but here those sightings are very rare. It is almost like those with money are not into the grandiose displays. I couldn't even tell you a family name in Portland that is known for wealth, and I have already been here three months. Wow! I often see beautiful homes in Portland with fuel efficient cars in their driveways. It is obvious these people could afford more, but I guess they are more concerned about saving the environment than showing off their wealth.
I think there are definite benefits to putting more value on a person's intelligence and skill rather than their wealth. Some people have money, but they actually have very little intelligence. Some people have intelligence, but they have very little money. The combination of both intelligence and money is often an unbeatable force and can accomplish great things in our society. But if I had to concentrate on one, I think that intelligence is definitely more important that a person's wealth. Money is a very fluid thing, it comes and goes so quickly. I have seen supposedly "wealthy" families lose their money quickly and all they have is their intelligence. When this happens it is unfortunate for the members of those once wealthy families who didn't take their time and resources to develop their intelligence. My father always said that education is the one thing that they can't take away from you in life.
I get chills up my spine just thinking about all the good a person with money can do in their lifetime. A perfect example is Andrew Carnegie. I know that Andrew Carnegie was not perfect, and that in order for him to become the "King of Steel" he probably at times had to wheel and deal in a way that bordered on questionable. But toward the end of his life he became a major philanthropist . He said that he was born without money, and he intended to die without money. He began giving money to libraries, education, scientific research, the arts, etc. Like I said, it gives me good chills to think of all the people who have benefited from the generosity of this one man. The Gates Foundation, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, is another example. This foundation gives large amounts of money to education every year.
To wrap this up I'd have to say that I like living in a city where intelligence is valued over wealth. In addition, I am very curious to see how those with wealth and intelligence tend to use their resources in this town. Portland is definitely an adventure with new ideas and new social structures.