My father recently forwarded an email to me…It was the October 30th post from the American Patriot’s Daily Almanac. In case you’re wondering, yes, it is representative of the type of emails my father sends to his children and grandchildren.
It was a gentle reminder that in order to do our duty as engaged citizens, we must constantly educate ourselves – and others. “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people,” the headline read. It was a quote from John Adams’ Dissertation on the Cannon and Feudal Law. He was born on that day almost 300 years ago.
Adams believed that the best way to guard the blessings of liberty was through education: “Let us study the law of nature; search into the spirit of the British constitution; read the histories of ancient ages; contemplate the great examples of Greece and Rome.” In searching for more contemporary and local “great examples” I returned to the story of the person who forwarded the email to me, my father. He truly believes that while still not a “perfect union,” our country’s promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are ideals for all of us, not just an elite few.
The year was 1973. My father was a young family man. At that time he had three children. My brother Hardy Jr. was the youngest at age two. And it was three years before my youngest sister Regina would be born. Dad worked a job with little flexibility, but he managed to serve his community in a variety of ways – he was a Boy Scout leader, a police commissioner, and a church trustee. He was a member of organizations like Westside Action Group and the NAACP. He and my mother believed in public service and taught all of us its value through word and deed.
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That year he was unexpectedly recruited to run for the 6th ward city council seat in San Bernardino. The seat was occupied by the incumbent Norris Gregory, a man my father had previously endorsed, but who had angered a vocal and politically active segment of the 6th ward community. He refused to listen to their issues and my dad, they believed, was the best candidate to unseat him. Because Mr. Gregory had appointed dad to the police commission, he felt some allegiance and was hesitant, dad told me recently. But with so many people imploring him to run he was forced to seriously consider the request. In his first political press release, dad explained how he arrived at the decision to mount a campaign and then presented his philosophy to his would-be constituents. No need to present a bunch of promises he wasn’t sure he could keep, instead he offered a simple approach to governing. “I will offer you honest representation,” he said. “I will offer you cooperation and I will offer you my best.”
Dad gained many endorsements during that first campaign, but he didn’t win. He ran as part of a recall effort shortly after that, and lost again. But dad didn’t believe he had to be “elected” to serve the people, so he kept on serving the community…as well as serving his family, his church, and his employer.
A decade later he found himself once again contemplating a campaign for an elected position, this time it was for the San Bernardino School Board. He won this time and ended up serving three consecutive terms. And as part of his lasting legacy, he forever changed the landscape of the 6th ward in a way he probably never could have as a city councilmember. Because of his vision and diligence, he made re-opening an elementary school and middle school on the Westside a school district priority. And he laid the groundwork for the Westside to have its first high school, Arroyo Valley High School, which will be celebrating its 15th anniversary next year.
In case you are not aware, today is Election Day and there are many important races that need your attention and vote. In Riverside there are several school board positions being voted on, and in Perris there is a contested race for an open city council seat. In San Bernardino there are city council positions and school board seats that need to be filled with people like my dad who want to represent you for the right reason. If we are to “guard our blessings” close to home we must participate in the democratic process, we must do our duty and vote but not just for anyone. We must vote for those who see themselves as community servants. Educate yourself and vote for those who are doing it for the right reason…to serve the community not themselves.