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Independence Day is a Chance to Celebrate our Differences and Similarities

By Becky Roloff, President and Chief Executive Officer
June 28, 2013
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As we approach the week of July 4 and the Independence Day we celebrate in this country, I’m wondering, what do you celebrate?

While I am not a historian, one of the colonists’ key dreams in leaving Europe was for the right to practice their religion free of persecution from the state. Separation of church and state is one of the fundamental rights that people came to this country for, and then fought to protect. As many in our society celebrate the expansion of legal rights for same-sex couples that occurred this week with the Supreme Court decision, it is equally important for us to remember that we have many wonderful and loyal employees, members and parents whose religious views do not support that expansion. We respect their religious point of view. We respect them. Seeking to understand and honor those differences makes us all wiser, our relationships better, and our team stronger.

In regard to the first steps of a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that passed in the U.S. Senate yesterday, we are in a unique position to help keep hope alive until all of this is resolved. I don’t think it is going to happen quickly, and I think there are many things that are going to be said in the course of the future debate that will hurt people. So let’s be sure we say the words that keep encouraging the families and friends of those directly involved in this issue. At a family event this week, I was again reminded that my grandparents were immigrants. On my mother’s side, my grandparents could speak English, but could not read it. One of my great delights was when my mom would get a phone call from my grandma to send Becky over so she could “read something” to them. They were literate in German, not English. Luckily, their children and grandchildren could translate for them — not so different than many families of the people we work with everyday.

So when we are thinking about independence, let’s think about independence from racial prejudice, independence from religious intolerance, independence from making judgments about others whose stories and journeys we cannot even begin to imagine.

I hope you have a wonderful time with your family and friends next week.