Among many things that must be fixed in Detroit, the damaged and neglected flagpoles adorning Hart Plaza – bereft of Stars and Stripes for the past 13 years – surely don’t rank high on most lists.
I don’t know Soviak beyond one phone conversation and what I’ve read about him, but he has all the marks of an exemplary young man. He’s inspired by patriotism. He wants young people like himself to get involved. The son of a retired Detroit police officer, he’ll complete his political science degree at the University of Detroit Mercy this spring and hopes to attend law school. His career goal? He wants to enter politics and someday be elected governor of Michigan.
Soviak earlier made a name at Grosse Pointe North high school by wearing a suit and tie to school on most days. He served in student government, though a few classmates teased him about his outfit.
He still wears a suit and tie every day, he says. His choice of dress sends a message that he’s old school, respectful of tradition and serious – all-too-rare messages that likewise resonate in his desire to see the U.S. flag receive proper treatment and respect at Hart Plaza.
“When the flag poles are repaired, the place will look amazing,” he said. “Both of my grandfathers served in World War II. One parachuted during the D-Day invasion, the other was in a tank. This will be a way to honor them.”
Five years ago, at age sixteen, Soviak started his own company for the repair, maintenance and constructionof flagpoles. Starting his own business was a way to earn a bit of pocket money instead of the more typical sixteen-year-old pursuits of cutting lawns or washing windows. His mother, a bank clerk, staked him the capital he needed to get started. The business has grown steadily and was profitable from day one; it now has many clients, four part-time workers and annual revenue of more than $50,000 a year. He and mom remain partners.
“Last year my girlfriend and I were downtown for the Martin Luther King parade to honor the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” he said. “We noticed the flagpoles. That’s when I decided we had to do something.”
Soviak’s company, Revolution Flag Group, will contribute its efforts free of charge. The contributions will cover only the cost of material, he said.
Soviak typifies the youthful vanguard that looks at a run-down city and sees infinite possibilities. He belongs to the tens of thousands that are starting businesses, joining non-profits, renovating buildings and apartments, clearing lots, enrolling in courses, supervising after-school sports programs and a million other activities designed to create a vibrant Detroit.
No matter where these young people grew up, whether they live in the city of not, they think of themselves as Detroiters.
I’ll be quite surprised if Soviak doesn’t come up with the rest of the money fairly soon and wraps up the Hart Plaza project in the next year or so. If you’re inspired and would like to contribute, please go to his website, where you can buy a $20 t-shirt that looks like this:
I can’t wait to find out what the “kid with the suit” has up his coat sleeve after he’s done with Hart Plaza.