“There seemed to be such a strong sense of belonging in the Midwest, such an integrity and resilience,” Suleyman says. “I asked myself, what has been successful here? There’s innovation, a great economy. Everyone gets along. It’s already very easy to be a Springfieldian. I meet people here and they will almost immediately offer to loan me a kayak.”
He speaks thoughtfully about his professional history in helping find commonalities in different cultures, and he credits his experiences for shaping his understanding of issues faced by immigrants and other members of under-represented populations.
“As children, we’re curious, but then we’re taught not to be too curious,” he says. He points out that children are frequently told that it’s rude to ask questions, or to wonder aloud about differences. It leads to self-silencing as adults, and a level of suppression that is poor for both relationships and business, he adds.
Suleyman understands the fear of overcoming perceived differences, but he has found that commonalities are great ways to communicate in spite of those differences. He credits Springfield as being a welcoming community that offers the dual strengths of a small-town feel and a larger-city vibe.
Those accolades being said, though, Suleyman admits to judging a place by its coffee options and says he has been pleased to find that Springfield offers a wide variety of local brews. He’s always looking for more coffee recommendations, even if he has already found some early favorites. “I’m not much into lattes or cappuccinos,” he says. “I always order the house coffee. It’s like an early dating phase. ‘What’s your house coffee?’”