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Years ago on a visit to Bozeman, I sat at the bar in Montana Ale Works in the company of a friend - an avid hunter and angler. We met a vegan man who developed a community garden in the area. We strangers spent hours in laughter and riveting conversation. When a conservative hunter and a liberal vegan can sit together at a bar and enjoy each other’s’ company, it’s my kind of place. This military brat wanted to be a true Montanan in that moment.

My family and I moved here shortly after that experience. I set aside my previous life experiences in order to learn the culture and values of Montana. Here you can be vegan or a meat eater, religious or atheist, liberal or conservative, city folk or country folk, wealthy or poor, any race or ethnicity and you can get along and even thrive. Around here there’s diversity of thoughts, beliefs and experiences and we are better for it.

If you’re new to Montana, welcome! May I make a gentle suggestion? Spend a couple years learning what it means to be a Montanan. Take time to learn the culture before you barrel in to change it. Choose not to be an out-of-stater living in Montana. Choose to become a true Montanan.

This place is better than anywhere I’ve ever lived. If you watch the Montana natives, you’ll learn a lot and we will keep our state and community the envy of the country. Melt into this state and become one of us. We’re united in our love for our home and all it has to offer; because while love can drive out hate, so too can hate drive out love if you let it. I choose to love. I choose to be a Montanan.

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Emily Davis