In this era of lies, denial and self-serving distortion of facts, it’s beyond refreshing to hear leaders speaking up for truth and humanitarian values. Their voices are water in the desert. I no longer refer to elected officials as leaders, because so many aren’t. I preserve that word’s true meaning, and use it only where it legitimately applies. Leadership requires the willingness to take risks, to set and hold a vision, to admit mistakes and learn from them, to lift up others when needed, and to walk the talk. These two mayors, I proudly call leaders.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu
On May 19, Mayor Landrieu told us why he decided to remove the Confederate statues from public grounds in New Orleans. According to his press release, “The statues were erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the “Cult of the Lost Cause,” a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy.”
In his speech, Landrieu shared his personal journey from obliviousness to these symbols in his environment as a White male, to empathic recognition of their meaning for and effect on African Americans. He acknowledged the actual facts of American history, rather than sugar-coating them. Landrieu faced squarely this legacy’s lingering ramifications and the role the confederate statues play in perpetuating the destruction of a people whose equality should have been ensured 150 years ago.
As an elected, he accepts his responsibility to the greater good. By insisting that we end this wrong, and taking steps to do so, he is helping the healing begin. As he said, he was elected to do the right thing, not the easy thing. Mayor Landrieu, thank you for your reflection, empathic listening, personal integrity, and your moral compass.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler
Last week, Mayor Adler received a misogynistic email from a male visitor to Austin, Texas who was angry that a local business was holding a women-only showing of the movie Wonder Woman. The letter excoriated women, called us the “second rate gender” and claimed we never invented or accomplished anything. He maligned our struggle for equal rights, labeling us hypocrites and the women’s movement hypocrisy. In addition, the man blasted the City of Austin—wishing it damage—and the mayor, calling him a coward.
Mayor Adler responded by publishing the man’s letter online, along with his reply. His artful, tongue-in-cheek response countered the man’s ignorance and disdain, while assuring him that everyone is welcome in Austin. By doing so, he exposed and negated the hatefulness that is devouring the soul of our nation.
Mayors Landrieu and Adler, thank you for your courage. May other elected officials follow your lead, and become leaders themselves.