Sunday, January 23, 2011
Across this last week the Journal has featured several guest articles reflecting on the legacy of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King is primarily famous for his leadership during the Civil rights movement, but was actually more passionate about creating what he called “The Beloved Community,” which was basically community of good will. He said, “We live in one world geographically. We face the great problem of making it one spiritually. Through our scientific means we have made of the world a neighborhood and now the challenge confronts us through our moral and spiritual means to make of it a brotherhood. We must live together, we are not independent we are interdependent. We are all involved in a single process. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly for we are tied together in a single progress. We are all linked in the great chain of humanity.”
The struggle for America to live up to its own ideals and vision is far from over. The voices of people like Dr. King serve as a call for us to remember who were are, but more importantly, to go beyond who we are and become “that city built on a hill, where truth prevails and justice and righteousness flow like everlasting waters, and where every human being is treated like the precious child of God that they are.” That is my dream. It is a dream of a community of people who not only wish the best for others, but who will create the conditions whereby that which is best for others are optimized.
I have a dream that in every home children will grow up knowing they are loved and valued for who they are, and that home is a place free from violence or abuse. I have a dream that every marriage will be seen as an opportunity for each partner to become all they are capable of becoming. I have a dream that we will become a valley of hospitality and welcome in which all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual preference, religious affiliation or political leaning will be able to gather and live as a beloved community. I further believe that there is no greater patriotism than protecting the rights of all persons to live as their conscience leads them, to have shelter, food, clothing and to know they have value as a person. Every person has something to offer, a contribution to make. We are strongest when we work together.
How might this dream, and the dreams of others shared on these pages this week and in our individual conversations be made into a reality here in Pocatello and Southeast Idaho? The local group, 2Great4Hate, is collaborating with School District 25, Idaho State University and local Law Enforcement agencies to sponsor a series of events entitled “Cultivating Community” coming up February 23-25. These events will bring to Pocatello a nationally-known Diversity advocate and trainer, Steve Wessler of the Center for Preventing Hate, located in Maine.
In their own words, the Center for Preventing Hate’s mission “is to prevent and respond to bias, harassment and violence by providing education and advocacy in schools, colleges, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and communities.”
The center’s objective is to create safety, by first raising awareness of the damaging impact of degrading language, then empowering community members with the knowledge that they have the ability to positively impact the culture around them. Their work provides people with an understanding of the impact of bias and harassment and to offer them the skills and strategies for respectful interventions.
Steve Wessler is a graduate of Harvard College and Boston University School of Law. As an attorney, he practiced law both in the Maine Attorney General’s office and in private practice for over 22 years.
At the Maine Department of the Attorney General, Wessler developed and directed the civil rights enforcement effort from 1992 to 1999 before creating the Center in 1999. He has received recognitions or awards for his work from a number of civil rights and professional organizations.
He is also the author of “The Respectful School” and a number of articles, reports and other publications focusing on hate crimes and prevention. Wessler is also a member of the faculty at the University of Southern Maine.
By bringing Wessler in February to work with our local schools, ISU and law enforcement, we hope to continue and extend the work of persons such as Dr. King and many local people who have worked over the years to create communities of harmony and acceptance, integrity and respect. Pocatello and Southeast Idaho are great places to live. By working together and advocating for communities based upon justice for all, they can become great places to thrive.
Rev. Dr. Craig Strobel is a fourth-generation Idahoan, serves as the pastor of Pocatello First United Methodist Church, and is the convener for 2Great4Hate. He is also the principal collaborator of ConSpiritu: A Center for Cultural Creativity.