A few years ago, prior to the pandemic, I would visit each of the schools in the city to celebrate what I referred to as Everyone Matters Day. Throughout the year, kids would come to the city building for the ‘Lunch with the Mayor’ program, and we would give them a piece of paper cut in the shape of a hand. On it was written, “I AM” followed by a blank space. The kids would fill in the blanks with what made them special. It was fun and thought-provoking to see their answers. They ranged from things as simple as, “I am a good soccer player,” or, “I am good at math,” to more profound responses like, “I am the man of the house,” and, “I am not the names people call me.” Those hands were put on the wall and formed a wonderful tree.
As I sat with the kids in school assemblies on Everyone Matters Day, I asked them to look around the room to see if everyone around them was the same as they were. They would, of course, tell me no–no one was the same. I followed that up by asking them what was different about them. Never, not even once, did a child tell me that the kid next to him or her was short, fat, a different color, handicapped in some way or any other way that we, as adults, might have seen. Instead, I heard things like “Her dress is red, but mine is blue,” or “he has brown hair, and mine is blonde.”
I met with other Mayors and heads of businesses in Madison, WI, in May, and we had a long, deep conversation about whether there was an ultimate cure for racism and discrimination. While there were lots of ideas shared, the answer kept coming back to the idea that, if it is possible, it must start with our children. We need to teach them that it simply isn’t OK. We have used the phrase ‘see something–say something’ regarding bullying, but we really need to extend that to ‘see or hear something–say something.’
Clearfield is one of the most diverse cities in the state. We are a manufacturing and military community made of hard-working people from different places, backgrounds, and lifestyles. For that reason alone, we MUST be the most tolerant and non-judgmental city in the state as well. The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…” As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence, I hope each of you will join me in taking a step back, looking at those around you, and seeing commonalities instead of differences.
Mayor Mark Shepherd