Marc Morial called the violence erupting in America, recurring terrorist attacks worldwide and warfare in the Middle East “the elephant in the room” that people have become too comfortable living with in these bizarre times of incivility.
Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League, told about 500 people Thursday at Starlight Theatre, that “something is awry” when people think that hurting or killing others is a solution to problems. Morial spoke at the 58th Annual Difference Maker Awards Luncheon of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City.
He said people must overcome their fear of others and find peaceful solutions to problems. He mentioned the slayings of 14 people Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif., as just the latest example of the recurring violence. “What can and should we do to avert this?” he asked.
Morial, a former mayor of New Orleans, highlighted the growing problem of gun violence in the U.S. and throughout the world as the Kansas City organization honored three persons with its Difference Maker Awards. Brenda Sharpe, president and chief executive of REACH Healthcare Foundation, received the Health Equity & Philanthropy Difference Maker Award. Joan Israelite, a consultant with the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, got the Bridge Builder — The Arts Difference Maker Award. Patti Austin, founder of the Over My Shoulder Foundation, received the Mentoring — The Arts Difference Maker Award. Terry Bassham, chairman, president and chief executive of the Kansas City Power & Light Co., and KCP&L received the Living Legacy Difference Maker Award.
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“We have to find the hero within ourselves to muster the will and our sense of responsibility to confront all of the problems we face as a nation and as a community,” Morial told the audience after the awards were presented.
He said it has to happen to defend democracy and the need for civil debate so that ideas can be shared constructively. The coarseness that has been a hallmark of presidential debates needs to end. The Urban League, like most Americans, prefers intelligent, thoughtful discussions even among people who disagree.
Morial also said people must demand jobs, paying wages enabling families to live a middle-class lifestyle again. People should insist on the creation of human capital so that children can go to college without being saddled with $50,000 in debt and minimum wage work after graduating. The solutions are in people working together creatively through organizations like the Urban League.
“We must confront the elephant in the room of America,” Morial said.
Austin drew a standing ovation when she sang Bill Withers’ hit, “Lean on Me.”
People need to depend on each other more to get through these strange times.