Today, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) is speaking at an event in Spokane, Washington in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. While there, she will issue a challenge: a commitment to civility. For more specifics on this challenge and to see how it unfolds, follow @CathyMcMorris on Twitter and use #Return2Civility.
Below are her prepared remarks:
Thank you, all, for being here today. I’m honored to join you, and stand with you again this year, as an advocate and as a friend .
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a moment for us to reflect on a man who changed the course of history. MLK taught us to dream of a better tomorrow, to respect our neighbors, and to love one another. And his legacy has been on my heart all throughout the last year.
I want to begin by addressing alleged comments by President Trump last week.
I wasn’t at the meeting, so I can’t confirm if they happened or not, but the fact we’re even talking about them frustrates me, too. This kind of language is destructive and disrespectful. Profanity and divisiveness are never the answer.
As Dr. King says, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
My goal is to be part of the solution. As Phil Tyler says, “we need to focus on our house, not the White House.” and find ways we can work to strengthen our community here in Eastern Washington.
That’s why today I’m reminded of all of those in our community who are working to continue Dr. King’s legacy and build strong and safe communities here in Spokane.
People like Freda Gandy, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center here in Spokane, who I’ve come to know and greatly respect in the last year for all of her work to make Spokane a better place to live, including expanding her services to the East Central Community Center.
Or people like Pastor Walter Kendricks of Morning Star Baptist Church and President of the Spokane Ministers Fellowship.
He and I grabbed a cup of coffee at Gonzaga not long ago. I honestly didn’t think he would be interested in talking to me. We shared our life stories, some of our hopes, some of our challenges and frustrations.
I walked away thinking, “What a guy! What a tremendous heart and sacrifice he is making to serve others.”
Even though life is tough at times, he’s committed to others. He challenged me that it takes each one of us doing our part to build a stronger community.
I’ve been a lot of thinking lately about everything that is going on in our country
The word I keep coming back to is unity.
At this event last year, I came to the realization that we must remember how to listen to each other, and how to come together for productive conversations, and like Dr. King’s philosophy, find the positive in every action and statement, even made in opposition. How to disagree without being disagreeable.
Lately, everything is viewed through the lens of “us versus them.” It shouldn’t be “us versus them” It should just be us — all of us.
Over the past year I have been trying to do my part to serve as a unifying force here in our community.
As I said at this event last year, more needs to be done to address racial division in America.
Every man, woman, and child in this country should be treated with dignity and respect, no matter their background or walk of life.
We may not always agree with one another, but we can all come together and find common ground to create change and progress here in Eastern Washington.
We can pledge to be better neighbors and to build up our communities when anger and fear threaten to divide us and tear us down. Let’s make that commitment together.
On this day last year, we had our first peaceful communities roundtable here in Spokane.
It was an opportunity for people from all different perspectives to come together and have the courageous conversations about the direction we want our community to head.
I am so thankful for Phil Tyler for leading these courageous conversations and for working with me to help build a strong community. It wasn’t just about discussing the problems though, it was about identifying solutions.
Our group identified three priorities for our community. They are:
- Moving from racism to gracism — and viewing every person with respect and value;
- Moving from poverty to opportunity — to work to create a community where we are warriors for human dignity and potential;
- And moving from divisiveness to security — because as we become more and more divided it leads to violence and insecurity
I am so excited to continue these important conversations with people all throughout our community to move forward in building a peaceful, more prosperous community for everyone.
Over the past year, I’ve also been hosting Unity Dinners with people throughout the community.
This was inspired by a challenge from Bobbie Enslow over a cup of Indaba coffee. The kitchen table has a way of breaking down barriers between people.
As we sip our coffee and eat our dinner, we share stories about what led us to live in our city, how we met our spouses, what we studied in college, and what our dreams are for our community.
One conversation leads to another, and by the end of the evening we’ve made new friends.
Everyone has a story. Many people have experienced deep pain, heartache and loss whether financial, health, or family.
By being kind and caring for one another, we can offer each other hope and encouragement to continue on.
The anger and hostility only increases stress and anxiety, and even in our community we’ve seen the heartbreaking impact of this stress and anxiety through suicide in our high schools, a shooting at Freeman, and bullying.
Throughout all of this I’ve been reminded that it takes each of us doing our part — each of us reaching out and working to bridge the gaps that divide us and bring hope to everyone.
RETURN TO CIVILITY
Through these “courageous conversations,” I’m reminded what Pastor Kent in Spokane Valley says: “The farthest distance between two people is their story.”
May 2018 bring healing to our community. Healing of broken hearts, broken relationships, broken families.
May I, as your representative, lead the healing for Eastern Washington and for our country.
That’s why I’d like to challenge each one of you to join me in a commitment to civility.
Let’s create a movement to return to civility here in Spokane, and hopefully, through respecting each person’s dignity and desire for a better life, we can lead in spreading civility throughout our state, our country, and our world.
My first challenge is to take someone to coffee you don’t agree with or someone who seems sad or angry. Is there someone who comes to mind? Someone who you’ve never taken the time to get to know? Who you maybe wouldn’t otherwise spend time with?
I encourage you to reach out. Grab a cup of coffee together. Post about it or tweet about it. Tag me. Use #Return2civility to share it with others. I hope you’ll be inspired. That you’ll be reminded there’s a lot of good people in the world, even if you may sometimes disagree with them on one thing, or on everything.
Do your part!
This March, I will travel to Memphis, Selma, and Montgomery and serve as Honorary Co-Host of the 2018 Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage — nearly 53 years after the Selma to Montgomery Marches.
This is something I never imagined I would have the chance to take part in. From Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma where the marches began to Edmund Pettus Bridge where police attacked the non-violent protests and on to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
I’m so honored to be a part of this journey through the history of the civil rights movement, and I’m hopeful that I will be able to welcome some friends here from Spokane to join me on this trip.
I hope that you are able to join me in this challenge to return to civility, and I am so grateful for the invitation to join you today.
The small things can make a major impact and I’m thankful for all of you–for your leadership, your thoughtfulness, your passion, and your vision.
I’m frequently reminded of this quote which I will leave you with: “If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.”