Bob Brown | Reno Gazette Journal | Read original article

When did you become a Nevadan? Birth? Forty years ago? Last year?

Most Nevadans come from somewhere else and are often instead asked how long we’ve lived in Nevada. There is a difference. As we celebrate 150 years of statehood, we ponder what it means to be a Nevadan.

Some would self-identify with a smaller community — north or south or rural Nevada. Others might self-select as native or adopted Nevadans. Still some like to talk about political ideology, as if that would suffice and an archetypal Nevadan would think a certain way. There are endless combinations of demographic information that divide us as a population. But what holds us together?

Is it this striking geography we find ourselves in? The entire world is aware of our spectacular Lake Tahoe. Our Ruby Mountains and Mohave Desert also bring visitors from throughout the globe. Great Basin, our national park, Valley of Fire, Lake Mead or Red Rock Canyon are each stellar examples of the tremendous natural beauty we are blessed with in Nevada.

So many places to discover, and yet many Nevadans have never ventured far from the bright lights of Las Vegas or Reno. Never driven beyond the light and sat on the hood of their car on a still, dark night to gaze at our spectacular night sky. So what does hold us together?

Opportunity. Nevada has always been a haven for dreamers and doers. A place where a good idea can make you a living and a great one can make you rich. Hard work, and in most cases loyalty, is rewarded. Innovation is coveted. Yes we draw the quick-buck artist and the con man, but they don’t last in a tested environment weary of such people. Opportunity is the best welcome sign you can have. It attracts the young and old, rich and poor, and doesn’t discriminate on any grounds.

Being a Nevadan involves making a decision. Every true Nevadan has made the conscious choice to keep the light of opportunity shining brightly in Nevada for all. We must commit ourselves to participate to the best of our ability in building our communities. We must fight injustice, intolerance, poverty and apathy because that is what being a Nevadan requires.

We were battle born from necessity, and we are Nevada proud from the life we made out of opportunity. In this sesquicentennial year, we celebrate the countless Nevadans who fought to make our state better for the next generation. It’s up to each of us to do even more as we carry this state into the future. We still have opportunity and people still come in search of it.

We are the people of Nevada, the last vestige of the true west, the land of opportunity.

Happy birthday, Nevada.

Bob Brown is a member of the Nevada 150 Commission. He is the former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and is the president of Opportunity Village, the largest non-profit in Nevada serving the intellectually disabled.