Last month the Freeport Public Library Board of Trustees voted on whether to install the National Motto, “In God We Trust,” on the exterior of the Library’s building, a project which was advanced by the City of Freeport, who has installed the signs on all public buildings in town -- a very contentious topic among residents.
At the library board meeting, the large room was packed to standing room only, and citizens on both sides of the issue spoke passionately about their perspective. The public comments lasted over an hour, with over 35 people registering their thoughts on the topic.
In today’s climate of polarized politics, information overload, and personalized media, people can easily spend most of their time immersed in conversations and information that only affirm their own beliefs and suppositions. The basic activity of coming together to explore and discuss topics of importance among people of varying positions has become rare. The tradition of civic discourse is central to successful democratic process, and as that tradition declines, so does the ability for communities to find common ground and make real improvements.
Let the public library be the place in every community where people can come together to safely and respectfully confront issues that are important to their lives and communities. Let the public library breathe new life into public participation and advance democracy.
The Freeport Public Library Board voted against installing the motto on the building.
Some people may not agree with the way the board voted, but all the people of the Community of Freeport can celebrate the triumph of the meeting because civic engagement, which benefits all, was the real winner.