Mayor, committee show true leadership

True leadership is an elusive quality, especially in today’s world of knee-jerk, always-negative critics filling up Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets.

Everyone wants to be the leader until they’re called on inconsistencies in their public statements, or asked legitimate questions about what they’re trying to accomplish, then many shrink from their self-proclaimed exalted positions. Even worse, many will use social media to recruit their friends to attack and belittle those asking the questions, attempting to bully others into silence.

And, of course, there’s the Trumpism of simply saying the media is wrong, the media made it up, the media misrepresented what the person said, the self-martyr syndrome of the media’s out to get me, when the truth is the media’s message is largely accurate, and it’s that accuracy which isn’t so flattering.

Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of this wanna-be leadership in Mount Airy in recent weeks and months.

We’ve also seen what has become a model of what leadership should be in Mayor David Rowe, along with the leaders of the local chapter of the NAACP and a few other folks.

Most everyone in and around Mount Airy is well aware by now of the Jan. 5 Washington Post story about Mount Airy, and the comments Rowe made that many deemed racially insensitive. Some in town have called for his resignation.

But Rowe, a man with a long record of fair, honest business practices in Mount Airy, refused to step down. Instead, he admitted the statements were his, admitted they were wrong, and apologized. The NAACP, an organization which some thought might join the chorus calling for the mayor’s resignation, instead accepted his apology and expressed the hope that this could lead to a positive, better understanding of race relations in Mount Airy, and lead to breaking down some of those divides.

Now we learn the mayor, without any fanfare or attention, has put together a group of people who are taking a hard look at local race relations and how those can be improved. The group, made up of individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, from different professional and personal walks of life, have already met three times.

The mayor’s goal? To get people from various cultural backgrounds more informed regarding the city, and more involved in city government.

“Our very first strategy is open and honest dialogue about who we are by sharing some ‘good and bad’ experiences that have made us who we are…We have talked about things that have happened over the years and why we feel the way we do,” the mayor said during a recent city commissioner meeting when he unveiled the group’s existence.

That statement, allowing people to express who they are, how they came to be who they are, why they feel the way they do — that is key to any true, substantive change.

Too often in today’s society, if someone is honest, says what he or she truly believes, they are called racist or bigot or some other name meant to cow them into silence. Only truly honest exchanges, that examine where we are as people, as a society, and how we got here, can make any headway into a better future.

That is why Mayor Rowe, the NAACP, and all of the individuals serving on this committee should be commended. They are setting the example for what true community leadership is.

We hope others notice, follow, and learn.

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