At times, boosters have lamented Oklahoma's national image. The Depression-era stereotypes of “The Grapes of Wrath” have long outlived that novel's author and still provide many a distorted view of our state. In general, outsiders sum up Oklahoma as a state full of roughnecks, cowboys and Indians.
To which we say: Yes we are!
The oil industry is a cornerstone of Oklahoma and contributed $61 billion to the state economy last year, according to an Oklahoma Energy Resources Board report. The industry is a major reason Oklahoma has weathered the national recession better than trendier locales.
Local energy companies have played a crucial role in advancing the hydraulic fracturing revolution, dramatically increasing access to domestic resources. Oklahomans are playing a big role in reasserting American dominance in the energy field; that's nothing to duck our heads over.
Oklahoma also plays an outsized role in the cattle industry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma is home to 4.5 million cattle and calves as of Jan. 1. Only four states exceed that number.
In 2010, the U.S. accounted for 25 percent of the global beef market, according to the Daily Livestock Report. The U.S. feeds the world, and Oklahoma supplies much of the beef that feeds the world. That's no reason for embarrassment.
American Indian culture is intertwined throughout Oklahoma society, preserving centuries-old tradition even as tribal governments thrive in the modern world. Outsiders find that fascinating and inspiring, not abhorrent.
Nothing is wrong with seeking to further diversify our state economy, but let's not downplay the importance of our heritage and long-standing success stories.
There are worse things than having your state image associated with the self-reliance of the cowboy, the guts of the wildcatter and the tenacity of the Native American.