Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett Discusses Madonna on CNN

IMG_8448Ever since Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett fired off an open letter addressing Madonna’s comments regarding her former hometown, the media response has been overwhelming. In addition to being interviewed by local Detroit news stations, the story has also caught the attention of,, and international media outlets.

On Wednesday, Barnett was interviewed on CNN by Newsroom anchor Brooke Baldwin where he discussed his retaliatory letter to pop singer Madonna. The mayor read his letter aloud (which can be read at the bottom of this article) and then responded to questions on-air. When asked why he wrote the letter the mayor responded, “I wanted people to know we have a very innovative, diverse community in Rochester Hills, much more than she would suggest.”

When asked if the people of Rochester Hills really care about what Madonna thinks the mayor said, “We are proud of Madonna and her achievements and the fact that she spent some time growing up in our community, but I think what our community is very proud of is our reputation.” He went on to say that when someone takes a shot at his community he feels like they just said his kids were ugly or something of that nature, he could not help but defend the city he is a part of and in charge of.

“Our community is strong and they have appreciated the response!,” said Barnett.

CNN asked where the mayor would take her if she called and wanted to take him up on his offer to visit her hometown. The mayor responded, “Up and down the streets where she grew up, her high school, the robotics capitol of the world, the many churches and houses of worship that make our city diverse, there would be no shortage of places to take her to show our innovation and how we have grown in the forty years since she cheered at her high school here.”

CNN concluded by asking if he had hard feelings and if her photo would remain on the museums hall of fame. The mayor quickly responded, “Of course it does!” He added that he hopes to hear from her, and that this is great opportunity for her and world to see how great our community is!

An Open Letter to Madonna:

I read with great interest your recent comments about growing up in Rochester Hills and your description of our residents as “basic, provincial thinking people”. As the Mayor of Rochester Hills, I feel compelled to respond.

Admittedly, I don’t know what experiences led you to that opinion, but let me assure you, our community is anything but basic or narrow minded. In fact, we are and have been home to some of the brightest minds shaping our world. Our school district is one of the top performing in the state and boasts two Blue Ribbon Schools, the most in Michigan. Our Universities are among the fastest growing in the Midwest and are rich with cultural and ethnic diversity.

We design and build more robots than any other city in North America, and Rochester Hills residents and businesses have been granted over 900 patents, nearly one a day, over the last three years. Not a typical achievement you would associate with “simple or basic” people.

We are growing in many ways including in our economic, racial, and religious diversity. We are home to one of the largest Mosques in Metro Detroit and the largest Albanian Catholic church in the world outside of Albania. We have a growing senior population with a vibrant college town feel. In fact, these are just some of the factors Money Magazine used to select Rochester Hills as one of the top ten best places to live in America.

We are, or have been, home to quite a few amazing people who are known more for innovative thinking than provincial – Olympic gold medalists, NASCAR Champions, visionaries in the fields of medicine and education, and even a top selling global singer/songwriter.

That’s right. Despite your distaste for us, we actually have enshrined you on our Community Wall of Fame at the Van Hoosen Museum. Your portrait sits alongside Bertha Van Hoosen, one of the first women to graduate from the University of Michigan in 1888 and one of the world’s leading surgeons for nearly 60 years. A female trailblazer in the field of medicine at the university your daughter now attends.

Your picture hangs just a few feet from Helen Southgate Williams, a renowned author of children’s literature who was ultimately appointed to the International Board of Books, an agency of the United Nations and one of the highest recognitions possible in the field. I assume that would be of some interest to a fellow children’s author like yourself.

Two strong women, ahead of their time, and in all of my research, I could not find the terms, “basic or provincial minded” to describe them or their accomplishments.

Madonna, you have achieved unbelievable success and while we appreciate your talent and achievement, we expect you to appreciate ours.

Undoubtedly, we have changed in the 40 years since you cheered at Adams High School, but in many ways we have stayed the same. Our neighborhoods have long been filled with innovative, free-thinking leaders not afraid to make a difference; by generous, charitable people who care more about doing what they believe is right, than by what they read in the media.

We are many things, Madonna, but basic and provincial minded we are not!

I invite you back to Rochester Hills to see who we are and what we believe in. While we certainly don’t need your stamp of approval, I am quite confident we would earn it.

Bryan K. Barnett is mayor of Rochester Hills.

About Tom and Ann Gendich

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