Citizen's View: Community rallied without its leaders
I joined hundreds of other people on Saturday who rallied together in Millennium Plaza Park to affirm that Lake Oswego values diversity, tolerance and inclusion.
Our community came together to tell the world that the offensive and hateful comments espoused by local business owner Kevin Kerwin (one of the original organizers of the March 4 Trump) do not reflect the values of the vast majority of this community. We also stood together to reject the recent racist and anti-Semitic incidents at Lake Oswego High School.
At the "Stand for Love" event, we heard from several great speakers. Fatmah Worfeley, a young Muslim women who spoke of her experience attending Lake Oswego High School, described having her hijab pulled from her head. She spoke emotionally and eloquently about feeling so uncomfortable and unwelcome that she eventually had to leave the school. We also heard from Camryn Leland, a current LOHS student, who spoke of her painful experiences as a minority LOSD student and of the systemic problems within our district.
These heart-wrenching stories were a somber and inspiring reminder of the situation we face and the challenges we need to overcome. Thankfully, our spirits were buoyed that day by the collective strength and overwhelming desire of the crowd to make change, to lead by example and to support the ongoing fight against bigotry, xenophobia and misogyny in all their ugly forms.
Among the crowd of young and old "Stand for Love" supporters were elected representatives from our county commission, our state Legislature and even the mayors from neighboring West Linn and Milwaukee. Conspicuously absent, however, was any representation from Lake Oswego's City Council or School Board.
Given recent incidents in our schools, I believe our board members missed out on a valuable learning experience. Perhaps more importantly, they missed the opportunity to let the community and our students know that they are willing to stand up against hate and discrimination.
Instead, the community rallied without their leaders.
I understand that there are times when it may be appropriate for our elected officials to remain "neutral," but there are also times when we need our leaders to take a stand. Fear, hate and discrimination in our city and our school system are not partisan issues. They are issues that need to be addressed publicly and with conviction.
As our state representative, Ann Lininger has said, "Community activism can be messy, as it was at times this Saturday. But to create good public policy, we must stand up for our values and work across party lines."
While this particular opportunity was lost, I sincerely hope our locally elected leaders find a way to address this issue in a meaningful and public way. There has been too much complacency and too much silence for far too long.
Jon Gustafson is a Lake Oswego parent and former city councilor.