Philadelphia has it pretty tough. It exists in the shadow cast by New York City in the north and is often overlooked due to the fact that Washington, D.C., is so close in the south. These days, the East Coast is like a Philadelphia sandwich, and not too many people want a bite of it.
It’s no secret that Philadelphia’s reputation is not the most sterling. From its sometimes overzealous sports fans to its reputation for having embarrassing
things happen when the nation is looking on (anyone remember when former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was almost struck by a steel support frame that collapsed at the grand opening of the Constitution Center in 2003?), Philadelphia never seems to get a break.
This city has picked up a few less-than-desirable nicknames over the years. One of the worst and most irritating is “Killadelphia”. That is often how my parents and sister refer to the city these days. Both of my parents were born and raised in the city and my sister spent the first eight years of her life playing on the so-called “mean streets” of Philadelphia. Now they live in South Jersey and ask me everyday how I can stand it here.
People who are not familiar with the city only see what is wrong with it in the news. They assume that we are living in a giant cesspool.
Yes, Philadelphia has crime problems
and yes, it is pretty dirty. But if Philadelphia is ever going to become the “next great American city”, as it was dubbed by “National Geographic Explorer”
magazine, then the change has to come from the ground up. That means the people of this city need to look at it in a positive light.
As a born-and-raised Philadelphian, it pains me when people refer to the city negatively. It really boils my blood when I see people – who are most likely not from the city but a surrounding suburb – wearing “I Love ‘Illadelph'” T-shirts they got from some store on South Street. I wouldn’t walk around Bucks County wearing a ‘Bensalem Sucks’ T-shirt. So please don’t come to this city and spread the negative vibes.It may be a tad absurd to get worked up about a few negative nicknames that the city has, especially if you subscribe to the “What’s in a name?” philosophy.
Personally, it all comes back to a city that is struggling to find its identity, which is a shame considering that Philadelphia is easily the most historical city in the United States. Philadelphia was the birthplace of our nation and its first capital. But in the years since then, it has slowly fallen into obscurity.
Philadelphia lacks the awe-inspiring monuments that New York and Washington
have. Instead of the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument, we have the Liberty Bell. The city does not have the impressive skyscrapers of New York or the practical layout of Washington.To put it bluntly, Philadelphia is a little bit off-center. But that is the way Philadelphians like it. It has long been established that this city is one that outsiders will never truly understand.
While there are certainly more pressing matters at hand in Philadelphia, such as controlling a dizzying homicide rate, there also needs to be an honest attempt to restore the city’s reputation. Former City Councilman and Democratic mayoral hopeful Michael Nutter has put a big emphasis on raising Philadelphia’s profile in the tourism industry.
Hopefully, either Nutter or whoever ultimately wins the election this November will have a concrete plan to improve the city’s image.
If all else fails, Philadelphia can start selling ‘I heart Philly’ T-shirts, mugs and hats ad nauseum. That worked wonders for New York City.
John Lamb can be reached at