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Our Thoughts: Speak up and be heard
Our Thoughts - OPINON

It has been written in this space before that journalism does not tell people what to think, but helps inform us what to think about.

In March, we asked you to think about the importance of SPLOST in Newton County. Now, it’s time to ask you to consider the importance of civil discourse in trying to make our community better.

Over the last several months, there has been a coarsening in the language used by some who disagree with the county’s leaders. Many people who comment on The Covington News’ online stories via social media express why they disagree with a policy decision.

This is, undoubtedly and unarguably, their right. And we are proud to provide a platform for which to do so, with the topics and vetted information necessary to make informed decisions.

But some also attack the integrity of the leaders making those decisions, sometimes accusing them of some questionable, or even criminal, activity and often attacking their very character.

Public conversation about politics and politicians ought to involve people discussing ideas and ideals for making their communities better.  Those conversations have lately taken a backseat to those who, secure behind their computer screens, seem eager to attack those actually trying to make a difference for all of us.

U.S.  President Theodore Roosevelt addressed this phenomenon in a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, France in 1910. In the speech, entitled “Citizenship in a Republic,” Roosevelt discussed those content to sit on the outside and snipe at those trying to make a difference.

“It is not the critic who counts,” he said, “not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood: who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who never know victory nor defeat.”

There exists a popular idea in sports of the “Mount Rushmore” of athletes as a way of showing who is the best and deserves the most respect as such. President Roosevelt has the honor of being on Mount Rushmore, literally and figuratively. He made that speech over 100 years ago and his words ring truer than ever today.

If you have ideas that will make our community better, get involved, attend meetings, speak up during public comment, run for office, do something constructive. Plug into one of many of our civic groups, volunteer groups, citizens committees or service organizations.

In the meantime, let’s debate policy, not personalities. Let’s discuss ideas for the future, not mistakes of the past. Let’s find ways to build consensus, not deconstruct ourselves.

While people will always disagree, we should never let it get personal. We, as a community, must strive to be better than that. We all want the same thing: the best for Newton County.