A Message From Our CEO on Recent Tragedies

Last updated: August 21, 2017, at 12:54 a.m. PT

Originally published: June 23, 2017, at 9:27 a.m. PT

In response to the growing tragic and disturbing events in the news, YMCA of Greater Seattle's President and CEO, Bob Gilbertson the following message to employees and community members.



The news continues to expose us to tragic and disturbing events. Terrorist acts, criminal events, and racial injustice are taking lives across the globe, be it radical religious terror in the UK or France, a white man from Illinois with a gun on a Virginia baseball field, or unjustified police violence. My heart breaks repeatedly as I hear of each new tragedy. Escalating divisive discourse fuels tragic actions. The targeting of people because of religion, race, political affiliation, or ethnicity is an abandonment of our humanity. As I have said frequently, when something happens to any citizen it opens the door to it happening to all of us. Our outrage must be equal for mosque, temple, or church destruction, as it should be for violence or violation of civil rights of Muslims, immigrants, African Americans, or a member of our family.

Recently I heard commentary about the political discourse in our country. The ugliness, bigotry, and violence that has surfaced has moved from debate to attacks – often personal, sometimes violent – rather than centering on the issues. Intelligent people can disagree about taxes, foreign policy, and any number of political questions. Sometimes common ground can be found. Research shows that today a higher percentage (majority) of parents do not want their children marrying someone with opposing political views. There is evidence that people are moving to neighborhoods and geographic areas that share their political views. All this suggests that the divide and contentiousness is growing. If people of differing beliefs and political positions stop talking to each other, how will opinions be changed and communities move forward?

Can we as individuals work to be more accepting of the people we know with different viewpoints? I am not suggesting that we accept the points of views fueled by hatred; but rather simply show respect and treat all with dignity when discussing the issues. Listening intently to alternative points of view often is educational. Political perspectives are generally shaped by a person’s life experience and certainly enriched by exposure to a diversity of ideas and political positions. I assert this as a starting point because it is something that each of us can do. I may not believe what others have to say but I defend their right to say it. I may not understand or believe others’ religious doctrines; I will defend their right to practice their religion. I believe in democracy; one person, one vote almost always results in compromise. I hope this is common ground to which most can agree.

I further suggest that the Y can be a place that is safe for all as well as being welcoming to those who too often feel isolated. St. Francis of Assisi suggested that the way we treat each other is the best indicator of our faith. He did not differentiate between those who held different beliefs. The Seattle Y’s New American Welcome Center Initiative, participation in Pride Month, and numerous outreach efforts to communities such as the Muslim community, demonstrate the Y’s commitment to “all”. The Y has a role to play in bridging the many divides that exist.

This week marks the summer solstice, a change in season. Change in the political discourse begins with us. The elected leaders in both parties have failed to bring people together. Find a way to take a stand on the issue, not with the person. Like many of you I have friends and family who seem as though they are on the opposite end of the political spectrum. It makes Thanksgiving interesting. I hope I would not damage my relationship over a political issue even though we disagree about it.


Best wishes,