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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're going next to a woman who adopted Detroit in real life. Reporter Celeste Headlee took a microphone to a statue in Detroit that is like no other.

CELESTE HEADLEE: I'm here in the center of my favorite city, looking across the Detroit River to Canada, and standing beside a monument to Joe Louis. It's a 24-foot-long sculpture of the boxer's fist. Eight tons of metal suspended above Jefferson Avenue, defiantly throwing a right punch.

Detroit's Brown Bomber shattered the myth of racial supremacy with one, decisive fight. After suffering a humiliating loss to the German fighter Max Schmeling in 1936, Louis returned home, trained tirelessly for a rematch two years later, and defeated the Nazi poster boy in just two minutes and four seconds.

Former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young once said that Joe Louis stood for everything that was good about Detroit. I can't help but agree. Joe Louis is the symbol of all that I love about this city.

Lots of people hate this sculpture, by the way. They say it glorifies violence. The statue was installed in the late 1980s. That was back when Detroit was known as the nation's murder capital, and the damage from the '67 riots still felt fresh.

But I don't see violence in this sculpture; I see a bullheaded determination. Joe Louis, like many Detroiters, took his blows. But Louis endured, and he did it with style.

National headlines talk about the death of Detroit. But looking around me, I see Detroiters getting on with their lives. A couple of engineers with briefcases and a cooler are heading off to COBO Center for a conference. And a young woman who's probably a teacher is rushing into the preschool. This is a place where people bring you a casserole when you get laid off, and start working their phone book to find you a job. The city is defined by people like this:

Unidentified Person: Morning.

HEADLEE: Even as news breaks about the possible collapse of the Big Three.

You know, Detroit was destroyed by fire in 1805, and that tragedy gave the city its motto: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus - we hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes.

This city has burnt to the ground more than once. But it emerged every time, ready for a comeback. Just like Joe Louis.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Commentary from Celeste Headlee, resident of Detroit. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep in Detroit.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne at NPR West.

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