LTTE: A message on democracy from the Larimer County Commissioner

Guest Author

Graphic illustration depicting a letter on a coffee table that reads "Letter to the Editor" surrounded by a coffee cup, pencil and loose papers.
(Graphic Illustration by Christine Moore-Bonbright | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. Letters to the Editor reflect the view of a member of the campus community and are submitted to the publication for approval.

The Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday is a time to reflect on our common humanity, and I am reminded of King’s words, “The time is always right to do what is right.” As we prepare for the upcoming inauguration of the 46th president of the United States in the aftermath of the violent assault on the United States Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, a day that will be etched in our hearts and minds for a long time, I’m compelled to do what is right and speak out.

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As an elected official, one of my responsibilities is to help build trust and relationships in our local community. My public and personal witness of our current state of affairs is intended to contribute to the dialogue that is desperately needed to move our nation and society forward.

We need to better understand the constitutional protections for free speech and assembly when demonstrating peacefully.”

The violent assault on our nation’s capitol resulted in the loss of life, personal injury, trauma and property damage. This violent assault was wrong and dangerous — revealing deep and systemic divisions grounded in discrimination, prejudice, fear, anger and mistrust. All the perpetrators, from top to bottom, must be held accountable and brought to justice.

At the same time, we are put on alert everywhere that a healthy and resilient representative democracy requires certain protections to remain viable, and I believe there are common values that bind us together — a commitment to free and fair elections, a peaceful transition of power, reliance on the rule of law to resolve disagreements and disputes; openness to reform and improvements, and the rejection of violence as a means of change.

capitol building at night, focus on American flag
The Colorado State Capitol Buildings sits surrounded by fencing in preparation for election day. (Lucy Morantz | The Collegian)

 The extreme polarization in the U.S. also reinforces the importance of local education and community development efforts that prepare us for the responsibilities of informed civic engagement — full and active participation in the democratic process. We need to better understand the constitutional protections for free speech and assembly when demonstrating peacefully. We need to think critically, ask questions and distinguish between fact and opinion. We need to improve our communication and listening skills, especially when we disagree on an issue, and we must conduct ourselves with civility — respecting and affirming each person’s human dignity.

Furthermore, we can choose to build on our common values in ways that advance racial and social justice, economic fairness, climate change action and nonviolent conflict resolution and peace building. Embracing restorative principles of honesty, integrity and healing help us establish a strong and inclusive foundation upon which to conduct the hard work ahead. My commitment is to help facilitate community-driven engagement that includes folks of all ages and backgrounds in sustainable discussions of fairness and progress. 

I submit that the healing of our collective wounds will require conscious and deliberate efforts, which include effective listening, empathic understanding, awareness and mindfulness, social-emotional learning and critical and creative thinking. We can learn from history and the many successful examples from around the world that have focused on truth and reconciliation.

John Kefalas, Commissioner

Larimer County, District 1

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