Senator Lankford Keynote Address at USS Tulsa Commissioning
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s speech.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) provided the keynote address at the commissioning of the new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the USS Tulsa. Lankford attended the commissioning at Embarcadero Pier 30/32 in San Francisco, CA.
Well, I want to say welcome, but then I have to do the welcome as we’ve done before. Welcome, mayor, mayor, mayor, mayor, mayor, mayor. Welcome. Thank you for being here, Admiral, Admiral, Admiral, Admiral, Admiral, Admiral. Representatives, Senators, and we’ll keep going on from there. This is a pretty remarkable group of people that have gathered to be able to celebrate a pretty remarkable day in our nation’s history. This is not just about Oklahoma history and Oklahoma tradition. It’s an American tradition. Commander, you’re going to be plank owner of a ship that carries more than two centuries of tradition of honor, of courage, and commitment in the United States Navy. This ship is an essential part of the future of our nation. It also bears a name.
In the 1820s, the federal government had evicted the Muskogee Creek tribe from their ancestral lands in the southeastern United States to march to present-day eastern Oklahoma. That was then-called Indian Territory. They were joined there and joined others that were already there, the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, and the Seminole people. Rolling hills, tall trees, the Arkansas River made that place incredibly peaceful and majestic. The Muskogee called their new settlement Tallasi. It means the ‘old town.’ We call it Tulsa today.
Methodists and Presbyterian missionaries started coming to what would be Tulsa in the 1800s. Communities are still rich in faith and in heritage hosting large faith universities, private schools, churches, and synagogues. The people of Tulsa not only have faith, but they also live their faith being some of the most caring and generous people in the world.
In the late 1800s, the streets were developed, and some trading posts were opened. The city of Tulsa was officially founded January the 18th, 1898, with around a thousand people in Tulsa at that time. Officially, in fact, in the census of 1900, 1,400 people lived in Tulsa, and then oil was found the very next year after that census was taken. Where 1,400 people lived in Tulsa in 1900, by 1920 there were 72,000 people that lived in Tulsa.
In 1901 oil was struck in Red Fort, now a neighborhood in southwest Tulsa. In 1905 the Glenpool oil field was discovered which is still producing even to this day. By the time Oklahoma became a state in 1907, nearly 100 oil companies had set up shop around Glenpool alone. By the 1920s, Tulsa was called the ‘Oil Capital of the World’ which Houston, Texas now falsely claims, but it is still in Oklahoma. Pipeline companies, refineries, geologists, engineers, oil and gas companies all still thrive in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Commander, there is a good chance that when you fill up the diesel tanks of the Tulsa, some of the fuel or the infrastructure that got that fuel to you was based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As you represent Tulsa and the United States of America, you will also be empowered by the strength of our nation and the energy of our state.
But Tulsa is far from just an oil town. The Tulsa Port of Catoosa on the Verdigris and Arkansas Rivers ranks among America’s busiest inland river ports. When you fly on American Airlines, there’s a pretty good chance that aircraft was maintained in Tulsa. Tulsa, in fact, is a hub for aeronautics of all types. She is a thriving economy around all types of manufacturing. If you like the taste of pie, we’ll introduce you to Bama pies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and if you ever eat a pie at McDonald’s, it’s pretty likely it came from Tulsa, Oklahoma at Bama pies.
Here’s a fun fact for you: when you ever pull up to an intersection and you slow down, say thank you to Tulsa, Oklahoma because in 1950, Tulsa Police Officer Clinton Riggs invented the ‘Yield’ sign. He first tested out his new invention of the Yield sign at First Street and Columbia Avenue. People actually did slow down, and it worked, so it proliferated all over Tulsa, then all over America, then all over the world. You’re welcome by the way.
Speaking of driving, in 1924 when the federal government started planning an interstate highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, businessman and highway commissioner from Tulsa, Oklahoma Cyrus Avery lobbied to run that route instead of across the Rockies southwest through Arizona, New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and take a turn towards Chicago right out of Tulsa. Route 66 is a major part of the Tulsa heritage. The spirit of the Mother Road, hospitality, adventure, and some family fun, still exists in Tulsa, and I was proud to walk through the USS Tulsa yesterday and see right outside of the dining facility a big Route 66 sign right on the door. She looked very natural there.
The best-selling solo artist of all time, Garth Brooks. Are you humming a few songs in your head right now? You can say thank you to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Garth was born in Tulsa in 1962. If country music is not your thing, how about some pop music? Some brothers named Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson formed the band ‘Hanson,’ and they first appeared as Tulsa natives at the Tulsa annual Mayfest street festivals when the boys were just 7, 9, and 12. You should probably put your three kids together in a band, Commander. We’ll see how that works out.
Recently reopened, the Big Ten Ballroom in north Tulsa was one of the hottest places in all of America for black musicians like Count Basie and the Temptations and countless others to perform during a painful season in our country when black musicians were not allowed to perform in many venues around the country. In fact, Greenwood in North Tulsa was called Black Wall Street because of all the commercialism and entrepreneurship. That thriving and prosperous black community was destroyed in 1921 during one of the worst race riots in the history of our nation when white residents burned down Greenwood and massacred countless black residents that night. In the recent decades, meaningful work has begun to restore Greenwood and to make it a place again of opportunity and optimism and on May the 31st of 2021, Tulsa will stop and remember that horrible day a century in our past, and we’ll declare our commitment to make sure our state and our nation never forget who we were and will never return to that kind of blind hatred and anger ever again.
Today, our diversity continues to grow across the region in communities, in business, and in government. People from all over the world come to Tulsa to work. They come as refugees…Tribal members are leaders in an integral part of the Tulsa community. Tulsa has reinvented herself for decades and decades proving economic and cultural resilience. By the 1950s not only was Tulsa called the Oil Capital of the World, she was also dubbed America’s Most Beautiful City. Sorry about that, mayor.
Tulsa is a remarkable city of rolling hills, beautiful trees, the river running through her, but also because of our many parks, museums, and open spaces in Tulsa. Tulsa’s Gilcrease and Philbrook museums house incredible collections of art and hundreds of thousands of artifacts including a hand-written copy of the Declaration of Independence. The BOK Center is an amazing venue for concerts. Downtown Tulsa has spectacular Art Deco buildings throughout, and the newest public place in Tulsa is by far the most magnificent, the Gathering Place. Along the river in central Tulsa, it cannot be described. It has to be experienced. Designed to bring people together from all areas of Tulsa of all backgrounds of all types to develop friendships… It not only accomplishes that goal, the Gathering Place surpasses all expectations.
One thing you should know about Tulsans, Tulsans hate to be second. They don’t mind doing the work, giving up the time, giving up their treasure to make sure they’re never second. To the sailors of the Tulsa, you bear our name. We’re a proud, diverse, and creative people who love to serve, who are not afraid to speak out and are willing to humble ourselves before our God. You represent the United States of America, the strongest, most powerful, most moral nation on Earth. When you arrive at any port of our nation or any port around the globe, you will bear all of our names and all of our history. You are fast. You are agile. You are capable of operating in all environments. Your mission is to protect our seas and deter aggression, but when deterrence fails, we also know you’re fully capable of restoring the peace. Your actions, your words, your faith, your discipline, and your power will reveal to a curious world just who we are as Americans. You are our ambassadors for freedom and you bear the name Tulsa and the United States of America.
On a railroad overpass in downtown Tulsa, there’s a brick circle laid on the ground which has locally been dubbed ‘The Center of the Universe.’ People love to stand in the center of that circle and to shout just to be able to hear the echo. Today, the city of Tulsa has a new echo, the USS Tulsa. You’ll carry our values to the world, and today we’re proud to share our name with you. God bless you and Godspeed.