Let Us Build Community to Uplift our Democracy

February 14, 2021

By Vince Williams, GMA President

My heart is aching. The destructive behavior on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol has tested our democracy, our democratic institutions and the ideals on which our country was founded.

Uncertainty regarding our economy and the impact of the pandemic, among other issues, have caused very real and understandable anxiety for many Americans. But in order to move forward and address the challenges we face together as a nation, we cannot let fear and hate of “the other” become infused into our politics. We must ground our politics and ourselves in civility, respect, compassion and love.

What happened on Jan. 6 did not take place solely within our nation’s capital; it is an experience we share collectively. It will take more than actions in Washington, D.C., to overcome this trauma. Healing will need to occur in each of our hearts and in our communities. As I search for clarity and certitude in this moment, I’m reminded of what previous GMA presidents have shared in this column in the past. These men and women—whose backgrounds, experiences and politics might be different than mine—are people whose leadership I admire and whom I’ve come to love and respect.

Dublin Mayor Phil Best, on the fact that most people in our nation feel that local communities can be laboratories for trust building, said this:

“I tend to look at it as an opportunity to shine, to show others how to get things done in a way that honors our democratic ideals while working towards the common good.”

Former Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said this on the need for more civility and kindness in politics:

“It is at the local level where we live, work and play; where citizenship and community are formed and nurtured; and where the strength of our democracy is grounded. There is no better place than in our communities to begin healing the wounds our democracy and culture have sustained.”

And my good friend, Auburn Mayor Linda Blechinger, had this to say after the elections in 2018:

“Whether you are happy with the current state of our politics or not, let’s take heart, have hope and continue to build our cities, remembering that civility, kindness and inclusion are fundamental building blocks to building strong communities.”

The wisdom of these leaders is something we all can embrace.

Friends, building community is a vital ingredient for our democracy and is needed to address the challenges we face. Moving forward we must commit to seeking the truth, ground our actions in dignity and maturity, and aspire to treat those that agree or disagree with us with love and generosity.

It is incumbent on us as city leaders to rise above the events of Jan. 6 and to work together to create those things in our communities that are beautiful, that have meaning, and that allow for our better angels to soar. To do so allows our nation and our communities to be the “shining city upon a hill.”

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.

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