From the Desk of the President: Be Courageous, Columbia

July 12, 2022

Like many others, this July 4th was a somewhat strange and even challenging day for me. The idea of celebration and fellowship seemed to conflict with what was happening in the world. Yet it also seemed somehow necessary.  

 

As I look back, what I saw at our Lakefront on Independence Day was exactly what we needed at this moment. I watched as all sorts of people – young and old; longtimers and newcomers; residents and visitors; Black, white and brown – took full advantage of the opportunity to gather together and do that thing humans do best. We congregated. We convened. We connected. And we had a really great time. To me, it was once again a beautiful representation of what community is meant to be, particularly when we celebrate the ideals this nation and Columbia were built on.

 

Still, the bright glow of fireworks served as a distraction to a dark shadow cast on this country as crisis after crisis try to wear us down. Our resilient front line workers are forced to confront another spike in COVID cases.

That pandemic continues to fuel economic hardship and political division. War persists overseas. Children are being killed in their classrooms. Shoppers are being gunned down while getting groceries to feed their family, simply for being Black. Parents are being murdered while they’re enjoying parades with their kids, parades that are celebrating the country that let that killer obtain a weapon. The concept of freedom has once again been morphed into something that does not apply to everyone. Basic human rights are being stripped away, leaving many of us reeling and others wondering what might be next.

 

And somehow, the momentum of the world isn’t bringing us together in these moments. It’s pulling us away from one another. We’ve become conditioned to six feet of separation and isolating opinions. Fireworks are almost required to cultivate an opportunity to find commonalities, even if that’s what you include in your picnic spread. Those moments of shared experience – even something as seemingly small as wearing red, white and blue or including the same side dish in your picnic spread – are incredibly important. It feels especially so right now. But they are only just the start.

 

Columbia was created to be a garden for growing people, but we do not grow if we do not change. Standing still in this moment is not an option. Remaining silent is always the easiest option, but it’s not the right option now. We should not be satisfied with the status quo, and if we don’t work toward positive change, who will? It has me reflecting on an old dictum – “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” 

 

So I’m asking you to be courageous, Columbia. I know that’s an incredibly big ask, but trust you are not doing it alone. There is strength in numbers and power in community as long as we embrace our differences and not allow them to alienate us. Let’s serve as an example of empathy over hatred, curiosity over judgment and engagement over division.

 

CA is starting to show up in new and different ways. Hopefully you can see the changes by looking back over just the past month at our Lakefront. CA celebrated Juneteenth for the first time. We’ve partnered with more world music artists. We’re hosting events like Latin Night. We brought new energy to traditions around Independence Day. We are committed to engaging and evolving to ensure we are remaining true to our origins and the courageous ideas that created what has become Columbia. Just as Rouse was when he started this community, it’s time to be innovative and brave. Let’s come together around this big, inclusive table and get to work. 

 

And get those fireworks ready because the result of that work will be truly something to celebrate.

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