In the weeks since the presidential election, members of the Democratic Town Committee have begun brainstorming ways to address what they see as a recent rise in divisive rhetoric and national discord. One of the ideas that sprouted during their recent meetings is a non-partisan proclamation on “tolerance and inclusivity.” DTC members hope that Wilton town officials will consider adopting the proclamation on behalf of the town.
According to DTC spokesman Bob Carney, the proclamation is specifically intended to reflect broader community values rather than anything related to one political party or belief. The DTC hopes that town leaders would consider adopting the proclamation as a formal statement about who Wilton residents are and what the Wilton community stands for and believes in.
“The DTC feels as though a proclamation like this articulates, supports and reaffirms Wilton values and it’s more important now than ever that we say that,” he says.
While the interest in promoting this effort started shortly after the election, those involved feel it has become a higher priority since the inauguration and the week of protests and disunity that have followed.
“We feel like this is something for the entire community not just the DTC, what the town values not just what the DTC values. It’s not meant to be partisan, and this is the time we need to stand up,” Carney says.
Pamela Hovland is one of the Wilton residents involved in drafting the statement. She’s hopeful that if Wilton makes this kind of statement, that other neighboring towns would follow Wilton’s lead.
“Ww need to come out of our political/ideological ‘closets’ right now and make sure our voices are louder, more articulate, more fact-based and more compassionate,” she says.
The exact wording of the proclamation hasn’t been finalized yet, and individuals who have been involved in its creation or who have read it prefer not to release the statement until it’s reviewed by town officials. However, says Carney, the themes reflected in the proclamation are tolerance and inclusivity, “which are Wilton values.”
Support of Other Community Groups
The group has plans to meet with first selectman Lynne Vanderslice in the hopes that it will be something that gets put on a Board of Selectmen’s meeting agenda for consideration.
“We’d love for it to be adopted, that the BOS says, ‘Yes, this represents who we are.’ We want to work with the first selectman as to how to go about it,” says Carney.
One step they have taken is to get the support of at least two non-partisan, civic groups, including Wi-ACT (the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee) and the Wilton League of Women Voters, both of which have given their verbal support for the initiative after seeing the proclamation draft.
“The language of the proclamation resonated because it sounded similar to what Wi-ACT has said in the past, most recently in a Letter to the Editor on Nov. 23, titled, ‘Appreciate Our Diversity,’” said Stephen Hudspeth, chairman of the 36-member Wi-ACT steering committee. That letter signed by the steering committee read:
“We are stronger for that diversity and need to hold up our appreciation of it both in what we say and in what we do. We know that upholding to be in the longstanding spirit of Wilton and reaffirm it as a key to our strength in community.”
Wi-ACT is an organization that that brings together members of the 10 faith-based institutions in Wilton–Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Hudspeth reinforced the fact that Wi-ACT is not a political or partisan organization, but reaffirming the beliefs supported by the proclamation is something the members felt able to do because of how important it is to stand up and speak out now.
“We’ve been in sympathy with the sentiments the last few months. It’s important that everyone stand up for these foundational principle, one has to do that. If issues like this are not addressed, history has taught us everyone suffers. It’s a matter of local significance because you can’t remain silent in any location and expect others will carry the cudgel. It has to be everyone speaking out, these are foundational issues of our democracy from day one,” says Hudspeth.