The Oklahoma Standard (Guest Post: Cindy Cason)

Cindy Cason is a native Oklahoman who helped launch the Together Oklahoma statewide grassroots coalition, working to ensure Oklahoma values are connected to state budget priorities.  

U.S. Air Force firefighters break away concrete during a search for survivors in the remains of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla.
U.S. Air Force firefighters break away concrete during a search for survivors in the remains of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla.

Last week at Norman’s Jazz Aid Concert to benefit tornado recovery efforts, a young person asked me why I talked about the Oklahoma Standard with tears of gratitude. “What’s the Oklahoma Standard?” he asked.

I explained that Oklahomans are known for dropping everything to help our neighbors, friends, even strangers in crisis. Our generous spirit drives us to share all that we have and even risk our lives to help others without hesitation. This high benchmark of behavior is known around the world, and it is our proudest legacy. It is the Oklahoma Standard.

From the Dust Bowl to the Bombing, the grassfires to the tornadoes, whenever adversity strikes us, we are reminded that our greatest resource is our people, grounded in common sense and strong, core values. We are patriotic, faithful, fiercely independent and caring people who value family, honest hard work, and lending a helping hand. 

It is why our teachers use their bodies to shield young children from a collapsing building. It is how our first responders dig through another pile of rubble desperate to save one more person. It is what drives us to dig deep and dig often to share our money, time, talent, and the grueling, hard recovery work.

Upholding this heritage requires partnerships at every level: private business, state and federal government, nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, and people from all walks of life working together.

Within 48 hours of the tornado devastation, individual and corporate donations hit the $100 million mark. Another $45 million in Rainy Day Funds was released for relief efforts by our Legislature. The governor and state agencies established OKStrong, an online clearinghouse of impact information, recovery updates, and links to help from the government and charities. The churches, businesses, and groups serving as collection sites for immediate need materials is far too long to list here. This weekend brought more concerts, fundraisers, and donations from across the state and nation. We all know the giving won’t stop until the work is completed.

We are all in this together, and no one is too big or too small to join in. Last year alone we gave $1.7 billion to charity, the 11th highest in the nation as a percentage of state income. This giving was during a time when our own state poverty rate is at a ten year high, with one in six of us living in poverty, and our median income rate in the bottom ten nationally. Individuals give 81 percent of all charitable contributions, compared to just 15 percent from foundations and 5 percent from corporations. We may not have a lot, but that never stops us from helping those in need.

We also know that we are not on our own. Support for Oklahoma has poured in from across the nation, and the federal government is paying three-fourths of the cost to clean up damaged areas. Federal support for programs like the National Weather Service helped to save lives by warning those in the path of the tornado. Just as we step in when others are in need, we depend on the support of our whole nation when tragedy strikes at home.

Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole said it well back in January, explaining why he would support a $50 billion Hurricane Sandy aid package:

It’s pretty unusual in my state to go through a year without a tornado disaster, and it’s pretty unusual to go through a year without a drought disaster. Each time, we’ve come and asked for help from the federal government; each time, we received that help. Undoubtedly, we’ll be doing that again in the near future. It would be hypocritical, in my view, to fail to do for people in the affected region what I and, I know, many others have routinely asked for our own regions.

Separately, none of these sources of giving and support can meet the need. Taken as a whole, our willingness to create collaborations between private, public, community, and faith sectors expands our capacity. Our combined efforts help us meet the needs of our friends, families, and neighbors in good times and bad throughout our state history.

There is no “us” and “them” in our work. Together we share the impact. Together we rebuild. Together we salute the spirit, strength, and character of our people who protect our legacy and build our future on the Oklahoma Standard.

The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.


The opinions stated in guest articles are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.

One thought on “The Oklahoma Standard (Guest Post: Cindy Cason)

  1. I think the Oklahoma Standard would include holding our state politicians responsible for not taking the money for the health care exchanges. Who are we donating money to? Is it going to Oklahomans? Is it going to help the schools in this state? We need to stop patting ourselves on the back for the way we react in a crisis and remember that for a lot of people in this state everyday is a crisis.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.