By Margaret (Maggie) Wallace
Mississippi is truly a place unlike any other for many reasons. It is a place that brings on a whirlwind of different emotions and means something different to each individual. To me and two million other citizens, Mississippi means home.
To many people who do not understand this state’s culture and heritage, it’s the punchline of a joke. One thing is certain, there is something special about this little Southern state.
Mississippi is home to controversy, the blues, Southern hospitality, and a rich history. The state’s history has many chapters. Some are bad, and some are inspiring.
Personally, I think that is what makes Mississippi great; our history is far from perfect, and yet, so many great things have come from here.
Mississippi is often overlooked and looked down upon. People not from Mississippi usually don’t understand life here; they simply pass judgment based on rumors and jokes in the media without taking the time to learn about Mississippi, it’s culture, or it’s people.
For example, when my best friend moved here from California, she was ridiculed by both family and friends because they believed “everyone here was racist.” She said that, in her experience, she has met so many kind, welcoming people.
Many people I have personally met that are not from Mississippi see this state as redneck, unintelligent and racist. When, in reality, I know very few people that match any of those descriptions. That is because they are not descriptions – they are misguided judgements passed with little knowledge of Mississippi.
The media often takes advantage of the hard times in Mississippi’s history to make a joke or story more interesting. Often, the media is inaccurate or exaggerated, and it leads to ill feelings about life here.
In preparation for my campaign, I researched different state marketing campaigns, and discovered many states use marketing campaigns about the state they represent to fund state interests, such as public service, tourism and education. Some campaigns are statewide, while others reach national audiences.
I reached out to friends and family from all over the U.S. to collect their thoughts on Mississippi, and the main theme was that Mississippi is impoverished and has a poor educational system. This is what inspired my campaign Magnolia State Strong.
The purpose of my campaign is to raise money for the Mississippi Department of Education, which helps fund and support Mississippi’s public school system. The campaign will last one year, and will focus on the many exceptional students of Mississippi who have overcome extreme circumstances to achieve academic success, and how they remain Magnolia State Strong through their personal struggles.
The basis of the campaign will be a series of commercials featuring real Mississippi students who have experienced difficult situations, such as poverty, disabilities, and others, telling their stories. The students will be of varying genders, ages, ethnicity, backgrounds, and will all be from different parts of the state.
At the end of each commercial, information about how to help will be provided and a link to the website magnoliastatestrong.org, and the hashtag #MSS, to use on social media. The website will encourage outlets to get involved with the Mississippi Department of Education and a donations page.
To further involvement, an Instagram and Facebook will be created, both providing a link to the website and more student stories than the commercials showcased.
I feel that my campaign would not only get the intended message across, but it would inspire a sense of pride for the youth of Mississippi and their true capabilities.
Through this project, I learned many people do not understand Mississippi, or our rich culture, history, and welcoming people. However, this can easily be changed.
Once people actually meet someone from Mississippi or see what it is like firsthand, preconceived notions changed. I also realized through my research of past campaigns that although Mississippi is not a perfect state, if people take pride in it and work to better it, great things can happen.