A time of opportunity and healing
Editor's note: Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax wrote this month's column for the Westside Economic Alliance.
As Mayor of the City of Forest Grove, I had the honor of appearing with my Westside colleagues in our annual brewfest known as the Mayors' Breakfast Forum for Westside Economic Alliance.
This year was a little different, as it was done through the sponsorship, cooperation and promotion of our partners at Comcast, Legacy and CBRE, who provided the technical expertise to pull off a virtual forum.
We had an enlightened discussion about COVID-19 (obviously), and the challenges ahead of us, which consists of housing (all across the spectrum), transportation, economic growth and services for the homeless.
The efforts of my mayor friends (Russ Axelrod, Frank Bubenik, Steve Callaway, Jef Dalin, Denny Doyle, Pete Edison, Ken Gibson, Tim Knapp, Teri Lenahan, Keith Mays, and Jason Snider) to care for and advance the interests of their cities is admirable, and their ability to work with their staffs, Washington County, Metro and the state of Oregon is second only to our cooperation with one another.
I think it is apparent to those who have attended past mayor forums that we like one another. Oh, we have differences, make no mistake, but those differences do not get in the way of our efforts to do what is right by the people who elected us to these offices.
We closed our forum late last month with the caveat that our efforts are subject to a moving target, which we thought was the pandemic.
Things, as they were the following Monday, were starkly different by Thursday than the last two and one-half months, when we, in order to survive, had to be nimble. Well, that nimbleness, that adaptation to change, was put to the extreme test recently.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited a storm of protests across this country, in large cities, small towns, and everywhere in between.
In a nation whose core legal document begins with the words, "We the People …," it is exasperating; it is frustrating; it is maddening that we have such a difficult time with enacting the systemic change necessary to end the injustice.
Earlier this week, I wrote a piece on Facebook (yeah, I know) about this being the 52nd anniversary of the week of the assassination of Robert Francis Kennedy. It caused me to think back on that turbulent time, 1968. That was the year my father died; we lost Martin Luther King and Bobby; we had the turmoil of Chicago; and we began it all with the explosiveness of Tet in Vietnam.
It is a year I wish on no one. But it was also a year of hope — hope in the words expressed by Sen. Kennedy, as he climbed on that flatbed trailer in Indianapolis the night of King's assassination and told the crowd that King had been shot and had died.
He spoke briefly, and in his peroration, he spoke of Aeschylus (an ancient Greek tragedian) and the coming of "… wisdom through the awful grace of God." "Awful" in this case did not mean bad, or terrible; instead, it meant full of awe or full of wonder.
He then offered a prescription for our conscience: "What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of those who still suffer within our country. …" He ended that with the phrase "be they black or white."
I would like to think in today's world, he would include all those who are underserved, underfed, and otherwise marginalized in this country.
Kennedy's capstone to that speech in April of 1968 is a moral arrow for us to shoot into the soul of this country. "Dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world."
Salaam. Shalom. Peace.
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