Honoring our perspectives
(Editor's note: This column from West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod first appeared in the city's November newsletter and we thought the message it communicated was important enough to share it here as well.)
Our fall weather has been particularly beautiful — I love this season of transition. I don't know if the colors are richer this year or if perhaps I am just seeing them from a different perspective?
Perspective is everything. As an example I recently experienced a few health scares, wakeup calls if you will, that certainly caught my attention — and my perspective! Not to worry as my health is in great shape overall and I'm very grateful for it, but health threats or health impacts are, and should be, life-shaping.
It is sometimes easy to take our health for granted until it is challenged in some way. In reality, our health is so vital to our individual well-being, and it's critical to our connections with our loved ones and families, and to our community values and relations. This health awareness helps us frame meaningful perspectives on life, and it affects how we interact with others and the activities we engage in daily.
In whatever health challenges we might face, we also need compassion to care for and heal our loved ones, family, friends and neighbors — in essence, care for our community. In my opinion, compassion and empathy are two of the most powerful emotions and characteristics we can demonstrate to build healthy communities, both locally and globally.
Compassion and empathy are also critical to healthy and effective public or civil discourse. We have observed lately at the federal level what unhealthy civil discourse looks like, and the consequences and impacts are full of dysfunction and disrespect, even hateful at times. But that is not the form of discourse we need or want in our community or our nation. We are better than that, and we should set a better example at the local level for our community, and especially for our children and their future.
Last year our City Council passed new guidance on civil discourse to improve public engagement and policy decisions and processes. You can view the guidance on the City's website at westlinnoregon.gov/citycouncil/council-guidelines-civil-discourse. Civil discourse is basically mutually respectful, courteous, constructive and orderly communication.
When communicating we should assume the best in others. We should be tolerant and welcome different opinions by debating issues and policy and not attacking each other. Very importantly, we must listen better, be open to compromise, and remember that we all want what we believe is most important or valued in/for our community.
In the upcoming holiday period we will celebrate gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness. Let us also embrace civil discourse and improve our communications by acknowledging and embracing our different ideas and opinions. We have so many great things to work on in our community — whether it be public safety/transportation projects, MainStreet redevelopment, Post Office relocating, Waterfront Master Planning, Parks renovations, rebuilding our schools, or acknowledging and embracing our cultural differences as we did at the successful equity summit recently. Let's be kind to each other and embrace our unique orientations toward issues. Let's celebrate our different perspectives.
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