Opinion

Embracing diversity will help State College reach its potential

In my opinion, by embracing racial, ethnic and other kinds of diversity, State College will be able to fulfill its potential to become a friendly, cosmopolitan town with jobs and opportunity.

This means every stripe of diversity: racial, ethnic, LGBTQA, gender, age, religion, mobility, thought, etc.

Embracing our racial diversity is the most urgent issue, however. Racial prejudice contains practices begun centuries ago, historical tragedies of our own making that must be corrected.

I grew up in rural Indiana. The only diversity I really knew was gender. People were judged to be “in” or “out” by their differentness: color of their skin, religion, family background, etc. My family was “out” because we were from Chicago. This doesn’t mean I was a target of discrimination, but I know how it works.

My neighbors would have been shocked to be called prejudiced, but they were. State College thinks of itself as a welcoming and friendly town. It is. But not to everyone. We need to do better.

Diversity is my No. 1 priority as mayor. I am proud that State College, frequently in partnership with Penn State, is actively engaged in every one of these areas.

Our country is stuck in a polarization of beliefs that is disturbing and destructive.

It speaks to the greatness in the soul of State College that issues of race and diversity have increasingly become a discussion topic in our schools, including Penn State, and elsewhere.

Members of our community, led by Police Chief Tom King and Pastor Harold McKenzie, in response to growing concern, began an open forum that meets every month to discuss issues of race. Conversations are frank, personal and enlightening. These discussions have made me aware of race as an urgent issue in a more personal way.

Diversity is inherent in life, especially modern life. We develop friendships a continent away on our cell phones; international travel is as commonplace as hearing other languages on College Avenue.

As our community works to stimulate creativity and innovation, what better way than to immerse ourselves in the diversity that surrounds us, strengthens us, stimulates new pathways of thinking, leading to innovation and change.

This makes for an exciting place to live, where change is happening internally.

Diversity is a catalyst for exploring different ideas and coming up with better solutions to our problems.

Welcoming diversity is an attribute of a full life.

Our future is uncertain, potentially chaotic and ambiguous. For our own sake, and the sake of those we love, we must be resilient, accept the world as it is with a commitment to harmony. This means mingle, communicate, join, interact, welcome and befriend.

Change starts with each of us and radiates outward.

Elizabeth Goreham is the mayor of the borough of State College.

IF YOU GO

What: Let’s Talk About Race — For a Change

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 27

Where: Easterly Parkway Elementary School, 234 Easterly Parkway, State College

More info: Preregister at www.scasd.org/Page/401

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