There are people in our community who go unheard and unheeded.
There are people in this community who are angry and frustrated. They are afraid and they want change.
Recent events across the country have ignited a spark to which many people have gravitated. And in some places that has led to rioting, looting, destruction of property and violence.
This is a call for change. It is a cry that has gone unheard for too long.
But in Rome we saw something different. There is still anger and frustration here. There is still a passionate plea for change here. There is still a stance against injustice. But it was done in a way that makes us proud to be a part of this community — it was done peacefully and with an eye toward understanding.
As violent protests spread across the nation, protests also took place on Broad Street. But those people of all colors, classes and creeds who gathered to show their support for justice and for change did so with a respect for property and for human life.
We would like to thank those who chose to protest peacefully. We see your anger and your disappointment. We hear your voice. We echo your calls for change. And we applaud your restraint and self control.
Our businesses thank you. Our law enforcement thanks you. Our families thank you.
In the end, those who constructively contribute to the social conversation will be remembered and their voice will be heeded.
As we ask for those who protest to do so peacefully we also need to remember the importance of lifting people out of poverty if we can. We should strive to make sure that education programs survive upcoming budget cuts — programs that are aimed at helping children who have not had the nurturing or the benefits that many of ours have had.
We need to make sure we’re putting our money toward initiatives that pave the way for those who’ve not been afforded the assistance many of us have.
We’ve concentrated for far too long on elevating those of us who have already been given a step ahead in life.
Helping populations of historically disenfranchised groups benefits everyone. Overall this is a racial issue, but even more so it’s a systemic poverty issue. Laws were on the books in living memory to keep black people apart from white people and to keep them living in poverty.
That is a fact.
But if we can help, all of us. If we can move toward helping people — our people — find a better future for their families, we should. If the American dream is not that, what is it?
If we who have found our way into a better life can’t help others also realize that same dream, what kind of Americans are we?
For those of us who are doing well, can you remember a time when you weren’t? Can you remember the days when you couldn’t pay a bill or were worried about rent being due?
This is a way of life for many of our people, and it’s a stressor that can lead to many bad decisions. Add to that the fear of imprisonment or death, just because of who you are and what you look like.
There is no easy fix to the situation in which our country finds itself. And unfortunately there are too many people who dismiss what they don’t understand or what they don’t want to understand.
English poet John Donne once famously wrote “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
We are one nation and one people. We will rise together or we will fall together.