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Posts Tagged ‘Hattiesburg Election’

Yesterday I was privileged to be a part of a gathering that called for a uniting of Hattiesburg after the difficult and divisive mayoral election. The Hattiesburg Jaycees and other groups organized the event that was held downtown at the end of the workday. You can read about the event in the Hattiesburg American or at WDAM.com.

Here are the remarks I shared:

For almost 17 years, Hattiesburg has been home for me and my family. We have lived north of Hardy Street and south of Hardy Street; we’ve lived west of Hwy 49 and east of Hwy 49. Over the years, through the places I’ve lived and the work I’ve done, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know people from every corner or our city.

What I’ve found is that the people of this city have an amazing sense that we are more than our neighborhoods; we are more than a few separate school districts. We are more than different denominations and religions. We are Hattiesburg

We are a people whose deep desire is to see our city thrive and succeed; we are a people with dreams for what this place can be and can become. We have dreams for how our diversity can become an unmatched strength. We have dreams for Hattiesburg.

But every dream has a moment when it is challenged. And in that moment of challenge, there is a decision to be made about whether we will continue to pursue the dream or not. For us, our challenge has been electing a mayor. We were fortunate in Hattiesburg to have two men who deeply love our city run for mayor. It was an election marred by mistakes and problems. No one denies that. And in the wake of that election we have seen division and anger and confusion. We’ve seen the anger on the floor of city council meetings, on the steps of city hall; we’ve seen anger and bitterness on Facebook and Twitter; we’ve used words of anger and division as we’ve talked with friends, family members and coworkers. These have been difficult months for us. And the anger and division have made it easy to forget how amazing our city truly is.

But it’s time. It’s time to remember the dreams we have for Hattiesburg. It’s time for us to choose that dream over the anger, and confusion and bitterness. It’s time to remember that we are not Parkhaven or Palmers. We are not Rowan or Thames; we are not Parkway Heights or Mt. Carmel; we are not public or private; we are not east Hattiesburg or west Hattiesburg. We are not black or white; we are not old or young. We are Hattiesburg. And we will either rise together or we will fall together as Hattiesburg.

The strength of our community has been and will be the dedication of all of its citizens to work together for a future that is unseen. When we’ve been willing to do that amazing things have happened. When we remember that We are Hattiesburg, we’ve been able to have difficult conversations about problems in our city; when we’ve remembered that We are Hattiesburg we’ve been able to create a city that celebrates the arts and has become a hub for entertainment; when we’ve remembered that We are Hattiesburg, we’ve reinvented downtown and figured out how to celebrate our growth out west.

So today, I call you back to our dreams. I call you to move beyond the rhetoric of division. The decision to move forward is not one that can be made by the mayor or city council. It is a decision that each of us must individually make. You and I must decide to be guided by dreams of a great future for Hattiesburg, not the emotions of one season. Ask yourself: Will you allow your anger or your distrust to derail who we can become? Will you allow the divisions that some people want to promote deny us our dream of the Hattiesburg we want to live in?

If you’re willing to believe that We are Hattiesburg, then I challenge you to live that out in the conversations you have with others; I challenge you to live that out in the way you speak about one another; I challenge you to do something difficult: to choose trust over suspicion. Because I guarantee the people you distrust at this moment love Hattiesburg as much as you do. They may see a different path but that doesn’t mean they don’t love our city. 

It’s time. We’ve all said the angry things, we’ve all expressed what needs to be expressed; now its time to return again to what has made us the strong, the dream of a vibrant city we can call home. It’s time again for us to say as one, “We are Hattiesburg.”

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