“United we stand, divided we fall.” These words were written into the “The Liberty Song” by one of our founding fathers, spoken by Patrick Henry in his final public address, and broadcast to the U.S. by Winston Churchill. It is the state motto of Kentucky and is still found on their state seal. The origins of this fundamental concept trace back to the Bible as, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” And yet, I fear we have not embraced this critical lesson.
Today, we face challenges that at times feel insurmountable. On a national level, we must tackle the dire threats of climate change and wealth inequality, the repeated terror of gun violence, and the rising costs of health care and prescription drugs. At home, we must find ways to bring jobs to our community, build affordable housing, and solve the growing homelessness crisis.
We all feel the weight of these issues and know tackling any single one of them will require active participation from all of us, at a time when our nation feels more divided than ever.
The rhetoric of our elected representatives deepens these divides and political pundits engage in behavior unfit for children. We rage at each other on social media. The lines feel so deeply drawn, our beliefs so entrenched, that one might believe they cannot be bridged. And yet, my passion has been to do just that.
I had the honor of serving as Rep. Katie Hill’s senior district representative in Santa Clarita. My focus was to build relationships in the community and listen to my neighbors. In my role, I heard from business owners who care deeply for the growth of this city. I engaged in monthly meetings to better understand the specific needs of our local veterans and how we might together honor and support them. I participated in regular legislative updates with the local water agency to ensure the availability of safe drinking water. Most importantly, I organized and led countless meetings with residents of our city to help ensure government could play a positive role in their lives.
This is what I learned.
Those most entrenched in extreme positions aren’t interested in listening anymore. Their pain, fear and anger amplifies their voices to the point that they drown out everyone else’s. Their positions are so extreme that we begin to believe we have nothing in common with people who don’t think and feel exactly as we do. But these extremes do not represent a path forward for our community and they do not represent the majority of us.
I saw us come together in the aftermath and horror of the terrible shooting at Saugus High School. We all felt the love and sense of community in the crowd at Central Park during the vigil. May that fateful day remind us we have more in common than what might appear to divide us. It cannot take another unspeakable tragedy to bring us together again.
We may have differing visions for the solutions to the challenges we face, but I truly believe we all want to do good in this world for our families and for our neighbors. By elevating this common truth, we can begin talking to one another again about how to unite as one community.
As your neighbor, I continue to serve this city. I choose unity over division, hope over despair and I have faith that the majority of our community does, too.