Before my first visit back to Shanghai, before we moved to Detroit, before I discovered New York City, before I ever dreamed of Paris or heard of Dubai, I fell in love with Toledo, Ohio.
At five, that was my first and only conception of a city. I was forever seized.
My Toledo was cosmopolitan, if only somewhat. It paraded stretches of somewhat pulsating shopping centers, a somewhat soaring downtown, patches of somewhat disheveled parks. Nevertheless, it was as rich a place for my imaginings as any bigger city could've been.
Little and just somewhat as it may now seem, Toledo offered my family untold opportunity in a new country. It was the 1990s and my parents had just emigrated from Shanghai, with me in tow. Shanghai had afforded them rare passage from poverty and illiteracy to higher education, and rarer still, to America. What would they find now?
In Toledo, my parents found lifelong friendships, welcoming communities, and new career possibilities. They also found an abundance of resources to enrich my childhood on little means – I grew up a young and happy denizen of its public museums, libraries, and after-school programs. Toledo transformed our lives.
I believe in the power of cities, large and small. On societies and on individuals. On personal wellbeing as much as on business and politics. I see them precipitating our generation's toughest problems, but also demonstrating the most viable solutions. And I see myself living a life dedicated to bettering them: Toledo, Detroit, NYC, and all.
I want to see others fall madly in love with their cities too.