In a world that seems increasingly combative and isolationist, it can also seem that working together toward common goals is out of date and pointless.
Leaders I most admire throughout history, to include Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln always emphasized community cooperation with an eye toward reconciliation. They realized that their methods of achieving goals were as important as the achievement. They realized that truly transformative change must unite, rather than divide.
If you look at my record, you will see my focus to unite reflected in my community relationships. I wrote about this, in part, in a previous blog about relationships.
Over the years I’ve co-hosted Hispanic Town Hall meetings in Cornelius with City officials, partnered with Centro Cultural for Cornelius events with presentations and question and answer forums, hosted Hispanic town hall meetings in Aloha, and stood with the Director of Centro Cultural to debate Measure 105. In an environment fraught with fear and distrust, I hosted the Department of Homeland Security Civil Rights Community Conference at Sheriff’s Office, bringing impacted community members together with federal and local law enforcement partners to increase communication and understanding. In 2017 Centro honored me with their Community Champion award.
I’ve enjoyed an 18-year relationship with the diverse community at the Bilal Mosque in Aloha, as well as the Muslim Educational Trust (MET) to collaborate across a range of issues. They have graciously opened their places of worship to our leaders and deputies as we attend their open house events, and I have been honored to provide a greeting during Friday prayer gatherings. They have addressed their civic concerns with me, always with an eye to transformative change and reconciliation through authentic relationships. They have also welcomed my wife and I as guests, and we’ve been lucky to know them and their families. Then five years ago, I joined the director of the Muslim Educational Trust, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our District Attorney’s Office and others to plan and conduct annual Building Bridges Seminars to bring regional law enforcement and justice officials together with diverse communities for workshops and discussions to build trust, mutual understanding and support. In 2016 the MET recognized our relationship with a “Friends of the Muslim Educational Trust” award.
During my year as Oregon State Sheriff’s Association president, I worked closely with sheriffs and police chiefs across our diverse state to build cohesion, mutual respect, support, and appreciation. Last year I was asked to address attendees at an interfaith safety seminar at Congregation Neveh Shalom about the importance of interfaith and interagency collaboration to best keep our community safe. The seminar helped us connect diverse places of worship with our security experts for advice so their security measures can be as effective as possible and everyone can feel safe wherever they choose to worship. And I’m honored to discuss current safety and cultural issues with the Washington County Civic Leaders Project, led by the county’s Community Engagement Team and Adelante Mujeres, that provides training in local government structures and the rights and opportunities of underrepresented community members to participate in decisions that may impact their lives.
But these examples don’t exist in a vacuum. They are part of the Sheriff’s Office culture. Because I, and we, truly believe that bringing people and community together is our best way forward. By focusing on what we have in common, appreciating our differences, and valuing reconciliation, we can achieve our goals and keep our community safe.