July 18, 2016
Yesterday, as many people were leaving worship services, they started getting news that three more police officers had been killed and others injured. This deadly violence was in Baton Rouge. Of course, that’s on the heels of only a few days before when our country and state suffered so much. Dallas police officers dead. Young black men dead. So much loss.
Last Thursday, we held a somber vigil for the Dallas officers at the Texas Peace Officers’ Memorial Monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol. I spoke alongside Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and wanted to share my words with you. My feelings about these deaths are very strong and they’re only made more raw by yesterday’s events.
I’m here to say thank you.
We’ve heard from some Dallas officers that, until the terrible events of last Thursday, they never heard words of support. They never heard thank you. Well, that is a wrong that I can fix.
The five officers killed in Dallas deserved at the very least to know that their service and sacrifice was honored. And to those of you who serve and protect our community, I want to express my sincere appreciation. You’ve been there for me. You’ve been there for the people of Austin. And we are here tonight for you.
Fixing the other wrongs that were so tragically laid bare last week isn’t so easy.
It feels that we’re fractured, that we’re splitting apart. I don’t think that’s what most of us want. None of us will find peace in conflict. None of us should rest easy while others struggle.
We must come together around more than grief and heartache.
We must unite over more than despair or questions about why we’re so broken.
Although, sadly, we’re allied in our excruciating pain. So much loss and so many questions about who we are and where do we go from here.
It’s time for us to throw away the labels and hear one another. I’m so tired of labels that cause us to abdicate our responsibilities as Texans, as Americans, as human beings to listen and try to understand and know each other better. To look behind the label at the person. To avoid stereotypes.
But we know, or ought to know, that there’s more to it than that.
Yeah, we have differences. We bring our own life lessons, circumstances and experiences to the definition of who we are.
But our differences don’t dictate that we must be divided.
We have a responsibility to listen to each other. To all who suffer this pain together. Move beyond the stereotype. Throw away the labels. Embrace the responsibility to hear each other. Reject any political figure who seeks to sever our common ties by thoughtless, divisive rhetorical outbursts.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul said, we have differences, but we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. He exhorted us to hate what is evil and hold onto what is good. Love one another warmly and be eager to show respect for one another.
We are different one from the other in various ways. But, yet, we are one body—if we will be one.
I can’t legislate a solution. The best I can do is to approach every day with humanity and urge you to do the same to bring us together. We each have a responsibility and an opportunity to treat each other with respect and dignity in every encounter.
Thank you to those of you serve us by offering to be our protectors at a time when, as others have correctly pointed out, we ask too much of you. When those who occupy that magnificent building talk more than they act and fail us all by their inaction.
As we stand here at this memorial, and we contemplate our grief, think about our future and try to survive our pain, I say thank you, please be safe, God bless you and God bless our country.