Mayor’s Roundtable: Democracy endures

By Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad
Reader Contributor

I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what I have to be grateful for this holiday season. I’m grateful for the love of family and friends. I’m grateful to not have to want for food, shelter or basic needs. I’m grateful to live in such a beautiful place, surrounded by nature’s majesty. Perhaps more than ever, I’m grateful for my health and that of my family. 

The pandemic has not been so kind to many families. Many have lost work, have been food and shelter insecure. And as of this week, more than 300,000 Americans have died, affecting families across the nation. I’m sure by now, most readers know someone who has died. My sister’s entire family contracted COVID-19 and I’m so grateful none were seriously impacted. Another dear friend of mine was not so lucky, he lost four family members to coronavirus. 

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

As the spread of coronavirus continues to surge, I’m grateful to everyone who cares for their friends, families and colleagues by practicing the CDC recommended protocols of social distancing, mask wearing in public and good personal hygiene. 

This has been an incredibly challenging year for local governments, which have demonstrated resilience and dedication in maintaining the level of service we expect of our city. I’m grateful to city staff for their grace, hard work, sacrifice and continued commitment to excellence. I’m honored to serve with them.

I’m also grateful to all the essential workers who continue to risk their own safety and that of their families for our comfort and shared economic well-being. 

I’m grateful to live in a country that aspires to create for each person opportunity, justice, freedom and representation in government. Right now, this feels most visceral to me. I am grateful to those who value these ideals over party politics or short-term gain. 

It feels weird even saying that. I never thought I would live to see the day when democracy itself, America’s founding principle, is challenged not by a greater cause, but by debunked conspiracy theories. In the past week we have witnessed elected representatives, 126 Republican congressional representatives, along with state officials and millions of citizens across the U.S. support overturning our free and fair elections. I am grateful for officials and judges who value the Constitution and rule of law over politics. I no longer take this for granted.

We are at a turning point in this American project. It is time for all of us to stand up and reclaim our American values. America is unique because it is the birthplace of republican democracy. We value, above all else, our ability to choose our representatives in government. 

I hope that we can rediscover our commitment to democracy. This past election, with a record voter turnout, helped fulfill that promise. I hope that we can continue to commit to this American project and work together to make our republic better than we found it. 

Americans value education. The U.S. created the first public school in 1635, The Boston Latin School. After leading the world in education as recently as 20 years ago, U.S. leadership in education has been in steady decline. This is the single greatest indicator of the future of our success. This nation needs to reclaim its value of education. I am grateful to those who value learning — including science. It is they who will help us overcome this pandemic and the modern challenges that face us. 

I listened to Idaho Senator Mike Crapo recently discuss the future of bipartisanship in Congress. He spoke of the need to focus politics on issues rather than character attacks. We need to focus on issues, bring honesty, integrity and humanity back into politics. I am grateful to those who seek and value truth as a means and an end. 

Although these are challenging times, I feel incredibly blessed to be where we are today. The challenges that face us now and in the future can only be overcome through consistent, coordinated effort. I hope that heading into this new year, we can step back and consider our present and our future. We’ve been through hard times before: the American Revolution, the Great Depression, the World Wars. Americans came together in those times and made personal sacrifices for the common good because we shared certain values. I hope that we can rediscover what unites us as Americans and recommit to our shared values.

Please join me for the Mayor’s Roundtable to discuss all this and more Friday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m. on Zoom:

You can also watch on Facebook Live through my page, Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

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