Since coming to Lawton, I have noticed that many are obsessed with comparing ourselves to other communities in our state. We may not be one of the 800lb gorillas, but Lawton is the third-largest stand-alone metropolitan area in Oklahoma. And because we stand apart, we do not have to compare ourselves with the metros or any of the other communities whose fortunes are inextricably tied to their urban anchors. We may not be an 800lb gorilla, but we are a nimble and crafty chimpanzee, and no gorilla can keep up with us. Lawton has some serious momentum right now, which means unlimited potential. We feel it as Lawtonians, and the rest of the state senses it, too.
I keep hearing how much Lawton has changed, but of course, it is the same old Lawton to me. Many of these changes seem small, like the splash pad in Elmer Thomas Park, but these little improvements add quickly to our momentum. We should celebrate little things like new police cars, new fire stations and the new public safety facility under construction. Gore and other major streets are being widened, and the new entrance to Rogers Lane is amazing. The Apache Event Center and the Hilton Conference Center are drawing more events than ever to town, and when people come here, they take note.
Moreover, we boast amenities that other cities cannot imagine. We have four nationally-recognized museums, two of them side-by-side: the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center, The Museum of the Great Plains, The Fort Sill National Historic Museum, and the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum. Lawton is also among the few cities in the state with a functioning commercial airport, conveniently connecting us the world. We have lakes, a National Refuge, and rich history. All of these add to our momentum.
Of course, I would be amiss if I did not mention education. Cameron University has been transformed with new construction and improvements that have established it as the center of our community. Great Plains Technology Center is growing as well, with a new Business Incubator designed to bolster our local economy. We must never take these institutions for granted. Few communities have either a university or a career-tech inside their city limits, and we have both. And I promise you that people statewide have taken note of your investment in Lawton Public Schools. We have had nearly 30 major building/renovation projects overlapping in the last year, and now that many are finishing up, we are ready to start a dozen more. Classroom supplies and student materials are being ordered at phenomenal rates. Honestly, our biggest challenge right now is keeping up with all the blessings you have entrusted to us.
Look in the mirror, Lawton! We have every right to be unabashedly proud of our community and expectant of a bright future. Momentum starts almost imperceptibly, but it often multiplies exponentially. Eventually, a tipping point is reached, and nothing can stop it. Lawton is on such a trajectory, and it gives us an opportunity to shine like never before. Let’s just mischievously wedge ourselves between those 800lb gorillas, not as a smaller versions, but as Lawton – a city that embraces its Lawton-ness with pride. And in doing so, we not only showcase the heart of our people, but we also serve as an example to other cities living in the shadow of the big gorillas in the state.
Who knows, maybe all of us smaller chimps can somehow band together, with Lawton as their supporter? After all, these other communities have much more in common with us than they do with the big gorillas, and there is nothing stopping Lawton from linking arms with the rest of the state to become the most influential community in Oklahoma. That’s the potential I see in this community, and I know others see it, too, or we would not have such momentum. Lawton is an oasis in Southwest Oklahoma, a regional hub and a statewide influencer with unlimited potential. Or, in other words, just the same old Lawton to me.