Throughout all of American history, there has been an argument as to which state in the Union is objectively the best. Fear no more, for I have more than enough evidence as to finally settle the debate.
It’s Texas, by the way.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of bias in this area. I’m a Texan, born and raised. Texas is my home. Born and raised a Houstonian, I’m now going to school in Dallas and I hope to one day work in Austin in the State Senate (or the State Supreme Court, which would be amazing). Thus, you would not be wrong to say that I have a great sense of pride for my home state. And why shouldn’t I? This is a state that has built its own destiny, that has changed so much over the course of (nearly) 200 years. Texas’ history from before it was in the Union is still remembered and honored. For cursory evidence of this, turn to the mosaic in the rotunda floor in the State Capital. The mosaic has six seals in it, one for the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Republic of Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and the United States. At a glance, the history of Texas is there, as those are the various sovereign powers that have ruled over Texas.
Truly however, what makes a state great are the people that make it home. Of this, I am sure, there is no higher caliber of person than that of the Texan. Texans have built incredible things, rebounded from tremendous tragedy, and have gone through it all with the attitude to help others. The Texan is Southern hospitality personified. What proof of this is there? Simple. Look towards to Bayou City: Houston, Texas. Originally the capital of the Republic of Texas, it was nothing more than a hot, humid, mosquito-ridden mud hole when the land was settled in 1837. It only became the metropolis that it is today through the great work and effort of the many people that have lived there. Houston’s destiny was not preordained by any stretch of the word. When the Allen brothers (the two men who used their wives’ money to buy land around Buffalo Bayou) first began developing the land that would become Houston, it had nothing. No permanent buildings (except the two-story wooden building that the brothers built that served as the capital until the 1840s) were in the city. It was muddy and hot and humid to the nth degree. Galveston, about 50 miles south of Houston, was the bustling, lucrative port that poured goods into the mainland. The Buffalo Bayou served as an entrance to Houston by water, and yet in the 1830s, it was no deeper than six feet at times, and it was used to ship goods through Houston. Eighty years later, the city built its own destiny. The Houston Ship Channel allowed companies to move their product farther inland than Galveston, into the heart of the city. This is what helped to make the city after the oil boom in the late 1800s, turning it from boom town into the world-class, diverse city that Houston was meant to be. The Ship Channel was the first miracle that was born of Houstonian hands, and the second was the Astrodome, the largest domed arena in the world at the time. Built under the guidance of Judge Roy Hofhienz, in order to bring a Major League Baseball team to the thriving metropolis. Before this the closest baseball team was the Cardinals, all the way in St. Louis. Thus, Judge Hofheinz brought the MLB to Houston through the Colt .45s. Just over 50 years later since their introduction to the world, Houston baseball brought home the championship, merely a month after Hurricane Harvey devastated the city.
As I said before, I was born and raised in Houston. I remember sleeping through much of Hurricane Ike’s initial landfall in 2008. We had all gone through our share of storms. And yet, I will never forget Harvey. Full disclosure, I was not in Houston at the time of Harvey. That storm was yet to brew when I moved back up here for the fall semester of 2017. Much of what I heard of the storm was secondhand. It was from my parents texting and calling me to give me updates on their situation (they turned out fine, unlike many people. Our neighborhood was fortunate enough to be built up on a hill), my girlfriend at the time Facetiming me out of both boredom and to let me know that she was okay, and from local radio stations. Not to make light out of a situation in which the people that make up the best city in the world were devastated, but there was almost another sunken city to join Atlantis. Harvey absolutely devastated Houston and left it muddy and dirty. That city, those people, however, did what they needed to and picked themselves back up and began to rebuild. Then, the Astros gave to the community what they needed, a distraction. They gave the city something to talk about besides the clean-up process. They gave them something to think about other than insurance or carpet or destruction. They gave them victory and triumph. There is one thing I pointed out to my dad when we were driving around this summer at work was the number of Astros merchandise “in the wild” increased at least tenfold from before. Before then, Texans football merchandise was the thing to have. Then the Astros won, and the city united behind them. Perhaps I’m being optimistic, or perhaps I’m reading too far into people’s actions, but the Astros winning the World Series absolutely helped the city, not just economically but also in helping the city reclaim its status as the world-class city that it is.
That being said, Houston is still recovering. Many people are still put out of their homes, many more still struggling with repairs by contractors that were chasing dollar signs. Yet they didn’t run. The Houstonians didn’t run from the challenge of rebuilding. The simple truth as to why I consider Houston as the greatest city in the world, is simply the people. I’ve been to Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Midland-Odessa and Nolan County, where there is a town of 36 people. I’ve crisscrossed my way across Texas, and Houston has no equal. Even compared to other cities that are perhaps more steeped in history than Houston, such as Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has been essential to American history since it was first settled, and has hosted some incredibly influential moments in American history. Yet, there’s a certain quality that Houston has that Pittsburgh, nor any of the other Northeastern cities do not have; the people. The people of Houston are such great people, that they make a city of nearly 3 million people feel like a single neighborhood.
The bayous run deep in the Bayou city, but the roots of a city that dug its feet in and made its own destiny run even deeper. Yes, Houston is my home, but it is without the single greatest city in the world. It puts a large patch on the quilt that makes Texas the greatest state.