I’m writing this before the 2020 elections, and there’s a lot going on. The unease about the election is palatable.
Parts of Georgia and the Southeast are recovering from Hurricane Zeta, the Midwest is recovering from an ice storm, the West is battling wildfires and they’re tracking down murder hornets in the Pacific Northwest. All the while, COVID-19 is surging, millions of Americans continue to suffer from the economic downturn and a lack of racial equity continues to hinder our nation’s greatest aspirations. These are just a few of the challenges we’re facing.
Amid all this, we may ask, “What’s next?” That question can’t be answered with 100% precision, of course. We don’t know what the impact of the 2020 elections will be, what will happen with the economy and COVID-19 or what natural disaster may appear. This lack of knowledge and not being in control of things is humbling. There is one thing, though, that we do know will happen, and that is that the work of Georgia’s cities will, and must, continue.
What we do locally is often unglamorous, constrained by state and federal rules and regulations, falls well outside the media spotlight and is usually not particularly interesting to most residents—well, not until something impacts them personally. Yet, in our cities, we grapple with and slog through many of the challenges facing our country day by day, month by month, year by year. The fact that we know to some small degree what is before us gives me comfort. I hope it does for you, too.
As you read this, the 2020 elections are over. My hope for a successful future for our cities, however, looks beyond the outcome of partisan, zero-sum politics and is grounded in something we don’t talk enough about… love. Some of you may be rolling your eyes, thinking that this four-letter word is not particularly germane to today’s political environment. Let’s not forget, though, that love is an active noun and as such is an expression of deep and abiding care and concern for all people. It requires that we act with their welfare in mind.
Whether we know it or not, we communicate this value in almost everything we do. When we focus on delivering clean water to our residents, engage with our children and youth, make efforts to alleviate poverty and homelessness and work to create local economies that provide well-paying jobs, we do so out of love for our cities and for the people that live in them.
Mr. Rogers once said, “Love is at the root of everything: all learning, all relationships. Love or the lack of it.” Like me, maybe you’re not always motivated by love when you wake up to start your day. But I choose to embrace that squishy feeling and look at love as the key to effective political leadership for our cities. Without it, what’s the point?
Remember, I love you and there ain’t nothing you can do about it!