Very few places in the country have the values of inclusion and diversity built into their very foundation the way Columbia does. The values of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion are the bedrock that inspired Jim Rouse to build his “Next America” in Howard County. Growing up here, my father passed on these values to me, as did the parents of many others.
Unfortunately, there is still work to be done to reinforce our guiding principles and work against bigotry, hate speech and racism. Lately, we’ve seen an increase in incidents of intolerance that are out of character for our community. We’ve seen young people posting racist comments on social media, hateful graffiti scrawled on a playground sidewalk and people aggressively challenged for their political beliefs.
These acts are deeply disturbing. Too many who came before us, including my father, fought for social justice. They sacrificed so much to make sure that we had a county that was inviting and accepting of everyone.
I believe Howard County is better than this. So, we felt it was time to begin a conversation that we are calling #OneHoward. The #OneHoward initiative will promote our community’s values and encourage positive dialogue and respectful behavior.
We are in the midst of a national discussion about these issues. Even in places like Columbia — a community founded on the values of inclusion and diversity, race and cultural discussions — the conversations are often hard to initiate. So, we kicked off the campaign Dec. 3 with about 300 people coming out to the Bain 50+ Center in Harper’s Choice on a Saturday afternoon to share their concerns and hopes for our county. Those who spoke were passionate in their beliefs, proving that Howard County residents are ready to stand up against these horrible acts.
We have reached out to dozens of community groups to join us. In the coming months, we’ll be partnering with community groups, as well as conducting activities to promote tolerance and acceptance.
I look forward to working with the community on this important initiative.
Allan H. Kittleman
Howard County Executive