This week, a quandary arose that prompted Seattle CityClub to reaffirm our values.
A group of people on social media criticized our choice of former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson as the speaker for our Annual Benefit Luncheon on June 18. One of our cherished nonprofit partners withdrew its support from the event. A few longtime supporters questioned our values, asking how we could give voice to someone who had played a key role in immigrant detention policies in the administration of President Barack Obama.
So, we asked ourselves questions, too.
We did not invite Secretary Johnson to speak about immigration policy, although we will ask him to address that issue in context of the theme of our event: civility and national security. Still, we know that public officials carry with them the weight of all their decisions, positive and negative. Was our choice true to our values as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to informing and inspiring civic engagement?
For nearly 40 years, CityClub has embraced the value of civil public discourse aimed at building understanding. We have never shied away from contentious topics or controversial speakers. In fact, we have intentionally sought them out. We believe that it is only by engaging in well-informed
conversation, seeking out common ground and disagreeing respectfully that we can foster a civil society. If we shout, “Go away,” rather than ask, “Help us understand,” society will become ever more polarized.
Do these values matter in the context of the heart-rending situations facing immigrant and refugee families at our borders today? We speak for every member of the CityClub staff and board in rejecting the inhumane treatment of any individuals. However, we do not believe that inviting dialogue on civility and national security flies in the face of our compassion or our commitment to engaging diverse voices.
We stand by our decision and we stand by our values.
We stand by our values even though we know it may cost us the respect of some of those in the immigrant and refugee community — people who we respect for standing by their own values. Even though we know it may cost us the friendship of some longstanding partners and loyal supporters. Even though we know it may cost us dearly-needed revenue from the Benefit Luncheon — funds to fuel our work on upcoming Seattle City Council debates and programs like Civic Cocktail, Civic Boot Camp, Civic Health Index and the Washington State Debate Coalition.
We stand by our values because failing to do so will cost us our integrity.
Thank you for your support and understanding.
|Teresa Moore||Suzanne Walsh|
|Executive Director||President, Board of Directors|