Who Is Randall Agee (American) And Why Does He Support Pakistan?
Hello, I am Randall Agee. I have had the pleasure of working hand in hand with Pakistani people over the past ten years and during that time I have noticed many uncanny similarities between my upbringing in Oklahoma, USA and those of my Pakistani friends throughout Pakistan. Yes, I understand our cultures are different, our societies are different and our economies are different, but I invite you all to dig deeper with me and see how Pakistan and Oklahoma are closer than many people think.
I was born and raised in Oklahoma, a state in the central U.S.A. Being from Oklahoma, you grow up with certain values and beliefs that come from living in a smaller, less populated state with an us against the world mentality. Why would Oklahoman’s think this way? Well, Oklahoma ranks 40th or lower out of 50 U.S. States in many statistical categories for things you don’t want to rank low in, such as obesity, education funding and prosperity.
Oklahoma has also had a few unfortunate events to occur in the last 200 years that has also crept into the phycology of people living here and has eroded their sense of pride and self-worth. I’ll discuss the most significant of those events below.
1.) Trail of Tears
This event occurred in the 1800’s when Oklahoma was still a territory of the United States.
Around 160-200 years ago, U.S. officials deemed Oklahoma a wasteland and forced tens of thousands of Native Americans out of their homelands in the eastern part of the United States. They marched the Native Americans to Oklahoma in brutal unforgiving conditions in what became known as the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears is still heavily featured in history textbooks across the United States and Oklahoma is forever tied with this very sad and unfortunate event.
2.) Dust Bowl of the 1930’s
Another unfortunate Oklahoma event that occurred was the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. Oklahoma went through a series of terrible droughts during the Great Depression. The beautiful lush green prairies dried up and the wind blew away the fertile topsoil. This led many Oklahoma families to flee west to California to seek shelter and better living conditions. John Steinbeck wrote a fictional story based on true facts about the Dust Bowl and Oklahoma called, “The Grapes of Wrath”. Still today, this book is read by many American high school students due to its historical context. This is a wonderful and very famous book, however, it also keeps Oklahoma’s pain alive and well.
3.) Major Tornado’s
When people think of Oklahoma, they think of tornados. Oklahoma is in what is called tornado alley, which is a geographical area in the central United States which is highly prone to large, long lasting devastating tornados. The highest wind speed ever recorded on Earth was in Oklahoma back in 2003. Every spring the state is under constant threat of being ravaged by tornados, and there are plenty of photos and videos online to see how horrifying these monsters can be.
4.) 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing
Lastly, the event of April 19th, 1995, shocked Oklahoma and the United States to its core. The tragic Oklahoma City Bombing took place in which 168 innocent lives were taken by a domestic terrorist.
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building – Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995
It was the deadliest domestic-based terrorist attack in the history of the United States since the era of mass lynchings and it happened in the quiet unassuming capital city of Oklahoma. The world’s attention turned to Oklahoma during this time and it wasn’t for good reason. This was another major blow to the average Oklahoman’s confidence, future outlook and standing in the eyes of other Americans.
As you read these historic facts about Oklahoma, you can begin to see how each one of them can add up to play an important role in how the average Oklahoman feels about their home state and feels about themselves. There aren’t a lot of Oklahoma flags flying around the state, but there are an amazing amount of American flags flying high and proud.
However, if you drive south to Texas, Oklahoma’s neighboring state, it’s a completely different story. Texas has the most state pride of any state in the U.S.A. and they proudly fly the Texas flag just about every where. They even fly the Texas flag at the same height of the U.S. flag, which is against the law, but Texan’s don’t care. They have such a rich history of triumph and overcoming the odds, that Texas pride is real and it’s NOT to be messed with. Oklahoma is quite the opposite and this also lends to the “chip on our shoulder”.
Oklahoman’s in general tend to be very defensive and emotional when celebrities or national pundits talk about Oklahoma as a “flyover” state. Meaning, there is nothing in Oklahoma, so just fly right over it. However, on the flip side, Oklahoman’s get very emotional when someone famous says something positive about the state. It’s like a sense of relief when Oklahoman’s get some sort of validity that hopefully the rest of the country sees. I see this quality in Pakistanis too.
Oklahoman’s really buy in and give all of their love and support to those that educate the rest of the world on the beautiful aspects of living in Oklahoma. For one, the people of Oklahoma are considered some of the nicest, most genuine and trusting people in all 50 states. Oklahoma’s care about each other, care about neighboring states, and Oklahoman’s are quick to help when other states are facing disasters. You will not find a more hospitable state and one that is so quick to try and earn your trust and love.
Now, back to me and how all this fits in with Pakistan. I have lived in Oklahoma most of his life. I lived in Texas for around 5 years in my 20’s and I immediately noticed the difference between Texas pride and Oklahoma um-Pride.. I couldn’t believe how proud Texans were of their state as I had never experienced this before. It was so strong that I desired to remain in Texas and be a part of this new found confidence as it was a sense of relief to be around other positive people.
However, I wasn’t a Texan, I was an Oklahoman, and the jokes I heard from Texans about Oklahomans were constant and unforgiving. I had a friend offer me a job right after my Texas Air National Guard days had ended. He said, if you wan this job it’s yours, I asked where is it. He said it’s in Oklahoma, I know you’re from there, how about you go back and grow our sales territory. So, my wife and I packed up and moved back to Oklahoma in 2003. I had to shift back into the Oklahoma frame of mind. Things seemed to be ten years behind Texas. Literally, everything slowed back down for me as I grew re-accustomed to the Oklahoma way of life.
Fast forward to 2008, I was needing some software development help on a project I was doing for the University of Oklahoma. I decided to explore offshore programmers to see if they could help. I went to oDesk, a freelancing website back then, and posted a small software project for people to bid on. I was very surprised to see the amount of Pakistani firms and Pakistani freelancers bidding on my project. Sure there were plenty of Indian and Philippine firms bidding, but why so many Pakistani ones? I had no idea that Pakistan was such a force in the world of technology, and I had no idea about Pakistan in general. I just believed what the world stereotypes said on the news and media outlets, and therefore I had a low opinion of what Pakistan could offer.
However, I am accustomed and keen to blaze new trails and explore new options, so I decided to interview a Pakistani firm. I was absolutely shocked during that interview. The person I spoke with, Imran Ahmed, spoke perfect English, he had no accent, he knew about Oklahoma, and he knew about American culture. We spent most of the interview talking about our favorite American and British rock bands and I was completely dumbfounded at the level of knowledge Irman had. After about fifteen minutes, I knew I had to give Imran and his company a chance.
That First Project.
The first project I gave to Imran and his company was a simple Flash slideshow project that pulled information out of an XML file. The cost was only $150 and Imran got the project finished in a day’s time. When I implemented this slideshow onto my client’s website and I saw the excitement in my client’s eyes, I immediately knew I was onto something special.
We will get into more specifics about how my relationship evolved with Imran and another Pakistani person named Raheel Afzal in other articles, but for now, we will continue talking about how I kept seeing tremendous potential in Pakistanis and their amazing work ethics.
It didn’t take long for me to decide I needed to scale up my relationships with Pakistanis in order to help bridge a gap between the Western world that needed software developers and the Pakistani world that had them. In 2009, I started a company called Allshore Virtual Staffing in the USA and I partnered with Raheel Afzal in Pakistan who formed DatumSquare IT Services. These two companies exist for each other and work hand in hand daily to ensure the best of Pakistan is presented to the world. The first few years had its growing pains, but myself and Raheel persevered with the help of an amazing team that we were lucky to have been able to assemble.
I have long been the type of CEO / President that loves to talk with the workers in the company. I love to hear their stories, I love to help them with personal and professional issues. I love to lead by example and coach people on how to handle every situation with dignity, class and self-respect. One of my favorite things to teach is an attitude of ownership. Take pride in the work you perform, own up to any mistakes that you make and never blame others for your bad luck. Pakistanis really have adopted to these teachings and I take great pride in mentoring, helping and divulging any information I can to help his team strive for greatness.
Now to the reason I love working with Pakistanis. I see so many familiarities between my roots as an Oklahoman and the underlying roots of what it means to be Pakistani. Both Pakistanis and Oklahoman’s are prideful of where they are from, and both parties are suffering from a lack of positive media exposure. While it’s completely unfair and not accurate to compare the relationship between India and Pakistan and Oklahoma and Texas, there are some surface comparisons one can make. Both states generally aren’t friendly with each other. Texas has the bigger cities, Texas has the bigger economy and Texans love to tell Oklahoman’s about it. So Pakistan has this in common with Oklahoman’s for having a neighboring rivalry like that.
Like Pakistanis, Oklahomans are conservative, religious and are some of the best hosts anyone can ask for. When Randall visited Pakistan in 2012, he was treated with the utmost respect and courtesy. This is in-line with what many people have said about visiting Oklahoma.
So there you have it, Randall just feels like he fits in with the Pakistani culture, frame of mind and thought processes when it comes to national pride and the desire to be respected by the world. He loves that so many Pakistanis are so respectful of him, thank him for any praise he offers and he certainly understands why, based on his life living in Oklahoma.