Common Values for a United Region
We are all going through some very challenging times in our region. Here at the Metropolitan Council we are always thinking about the values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and access to opportunity. It guides our planning work, our operations, and how we interact with our partners around the metropolitan area.
If recent events in Falcon Heights, Baton Rouge, and Dallas have taught us anything, it’s that these are not just words of an agency trying to impose political correctness. Rather, equity and diversity are the concepts at the core of our efforts to create a community that is fair, just and united.
These days it may seem difficult to imagine a community united. For an illustration of how challenging the times are, I offer President Barack Obama’s words from the Dallas memorial service. He admitted, “I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.” Let me say to you with sincere humility, I understand that my words today will be inadequate.
Everyone grieves differently. Everyone grapples with race, discrimination, social unease, and the impacts of the events of the last two weeks in a different way. These recent events are tragic, and my sympathies go out to everyone affected. It is devastating that another bright star in our own region went out too early. I attended a community gathering to honor the life of Philando Castile at the James J. Hill Montessori Magnet School and it was clear then and today that the family and the community want answers and justice.
I also know that a number of our own officers from the Metro Transit Police Department, as well as other employees at the Metropolitan Council, keenly feel the loss of a Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer. A number of our own officers traveled to Dallas to pay tribute to a fallen brother, another life that was tragically cut short.
Transit officers play a key role in protecting all of the residents in the communities they serve, and our department is interacting with the region as much or more than any public safety unit in the state. I want to recognize them for their professionalism and public service in the face of such trying times.
Even though words alone may feel inadequate, President Obama also asked us all to keep our hope and optimism for brighter days ahead. “I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds.”
While we face many challenges in these areas, we can all be encouraged by the simple fact that as a region, we are working to address them. When it comes to creating a more equitable region, the Metropolitan Council is in a unique position. We are involved in services that help families access affordable housing, transit service to move around and get to jobs, as well as a number of other important issues that touch the lives of so many.
Talking about race can be enormously difficult for some of us, but I want to ask us all to think about what role race plays in our own lives and how we can have a positive impact on our community. While words can sometimes feel inadequate, I believe firmly that we as an agency and as a region must face the challenges of race and privilege head on, with transparency, with empathy, with the hope of improving the social environment for everyone.
We have the desire to create an equitable region, united by the values we all share. As a community, we should turn to each other to take care of ourselves. These are trying times, but we don’t have to go through them alone.