Mayor Truax urges a more sustainable, equitable, open community

Editor's note: Last week, Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax gave his annual State of the City address at the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce luncheon. After reminding everyone who won the Super Bowl, the mayor thanked his fellow elected officials, local goverment staff members and institutional leaders for fostering a tradition of cooperation and partnership in Washington County. He then spoke of some of the accomplishments of the past year before looking to the future. Here is how he concluded his remarks:

This past year has been one of growth and renewed prosperity for the city and its inhabitants. But there are challenges ahead.

We have just approved the creation of a new commission for Forest Grove, and it will deal with sustainability.

We have to change the way we do things. When we had the privilege of visiting Nyuzen last October, to help our sister city in Japan celebrate its 60th anniversary, we had the honor of speaking at their ceremony. I assumed that we would speak at a gathering of some 50 or 60 people. No way, as it turned out that some 600 people were in attendance. My thoughts at that presentation were to observe the challenge we had as a people if we were to survive and prosper on this planet. In that speech, I included the words of Adlai Ewing Stevenson, who in 1964, said:

“We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent upon its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and, the love we give our fragile craft. We cannot maintain it half fortunate, half miserable; half confident, half despairing; half slave to the ancient enemies of man, half free in a liberation of resources undreamed of until this day. No craft, no crew can travel safely with such vast contradictions. On their resolution depends the survival of us all.”

And even though those words are half a century old, they ring as true today as they did then. We must be a sustainable people. We must be sustainable in the environmental sense, making sure that the resources of this planet are not wasted, but rather we be wise stewards of our air, of our water, of our food stuffs. We must be sustainable in an economic sense, ensuring that we provide wise work for all of us, work that replenishes our land, our resources and our culture. And we must be sustainable in how we provide for each other, in a way that observes our equality, our liberty, and our innate sense of justice. We owe it to ourselves, to our children and to our children’s children.

One final thought. I am often struck and saddened by the partisanship that permeates our national political scene. I understand, though I despair at times, the divide we have nationally. But, closer to home, in the politics of this county and this community, we are also being brought to the edge of such partisanship that wants to prohibit any reach across the ideological aisle. We used to be able to have different ideas, but still be able to discuss our differences rationally. We have, unfortunately, fallen into the well-worn trap of believing that compromise — rather than being shared sentiment arrived at through thoughtful discourse — is now reviled as a retreat, a capitulation of principle. Such negation of such a powerful tool of negotiation makes no sense.

There have been times in our history where we faced similar trials. One such time was our Civil War. Two weeks ago, we observed the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, whose thoughtful perorations led us through that great divide. I had occasion to listen to one of my favorite recordings, Aaron Copland’s Lincoln portrait. That work contains five quotations from the rail splitter, and one of those pieces comes to mind:

“He was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, and lived in Illinois. And this is what he said. This is what Abe Lincoln said. ‘The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country.’”

We would be well-served to follow the words of Lincoln. We would be well-served to work with each other to make this community more sustainable, more profitable, more equitable, more open, more sharing, more compassionate.

And in doing so, we shall make Forest Grove all it can and should be.

Pete Truax is mayor of Forest Grove.

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