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Progressive Voice: A Message for a New Year

Karen DarnerBy Karen Darner

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

The following is an adaptation of remarks delivered by Karen Darner at the swearing-in ceremony for incoming County Board members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey.

Good afternoon, Arlington! I have the honor of sharing with all of you an event that is the culmination of almost a whole year of campaigning by many people to serve on the Arlington County Board.

This year was historic to a certain degree — two first-time members join the County Board on Jan. 1, 2016 — the first time this has happened since 1978.

Here in Arlington, which has been my home for almost 45 years, I have seen come to life almost daily Margaret Mead’s words: “Never believe a few caring people can’t change the world because that’s all who ever have.”

I’ve seen that spirit of caring and community in our neighborhoods, classrooms, community centers, and parks; in our public and private workforces and our volunteers; and in our elected and appointed leaders.

The Arlington Community Foundation says we’re a community of “uncommon values” — and I believe that wholeheartedly.

We have had our difficult times in Arlington. On Jan. 11, almost 13 years ago in this very room, our new County Board Chair Charles “Mickey” Monroe had a mortal stroke as he was responding to a citizen comment. Mickey was stricken while giving back to a community where he was raised, wanting to make Arlington a better place for residents of all ages and for future generations.

Mickey’s favorite song was “Sailing” by Christopher Cross, and the chorus provides a little insight into Mickey’s thoughts about our community: “Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be; just a dream and the wind to carry me.”

I believe Charles Monroe would be proud of these two new County Board members. He would hold a dream of all five County Board members working together in 2016 to serve the community they represent and wish for them a little figurative wind at their backs aided by the service of past County Board members. Though we face a changing world, those links between past and present are important to ensuring that Arlington is the kind of place we’ve always heard it could be.

In a few moments, we will hear from our new Board members, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. They bring a youthful vigor to their new positions. What impresses me about both Christian and Katie is their fervent desire to work with our residents to identify strengths and weaknesses, joined together with a willingness to invest the time and study to ensure collaborative problem solving. They stand ready to work with their Board colleagues and with Arlington’s residents to move our community forward.

I am impressed that they have learned something that I learned through my Peace Corps work — there isn’t always a right way or a wrong way — it is often enough just to be willing to try things a different way.

It is good to see this room overflowing with people wishing Christian and Katie well.

I am glad that we are joined by so many community leaders and elected officials, from County Board members, to School Board members, to Constitutional officers, to General Assembly members, to senior County and Arlington Public Schools staff.

And we have a special mix of generations participating today. The Star Spangled Banner will be sung by 8th grade Thomas Jefferson student Maya-Ree Loza Munoz, a young woman who is an outstanding student, and is quite busy with theatre and music activities as well as volunteering with low-income family and homeless programs — giving back to her community. In addition to being an English and Spanish speaker, she is learning Chinese, French, and American Sign Language.

Immediately following the Star Spangled Banner, Jordan Dorsey, a second grader at Arlington Traditional School, will lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. Keep in mind that not only is she a voracious reader, but Jordan was elected to her student council the week BEFORE her dad was elected to the Arlington County Board — the first elected Dorsey in Arlington!

Thank you to all of you for your participation in this special event today. May we all be blessed in the New Year and may we all wish our 2016 County Board a successful year ahead.

Karen Darner served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1991 to 2004. In 2009, she received the Arlington Community Foundation’s William T. Newman Jr. Spirit of Community Award in recognition of over 30 years as an active member of numerous community organizations.

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