Among other great American leaders, we celebrate the lives of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln in February. They stood for equal rights and inclusive, representative democracy.
In an inspiring review of Richard Wightman Fox’s book Lincoln’s Body in the Feb. 7-8, 2015 Wall Street Journal weekend edition, University of Illinois history professor Michael Burlingame quoted Frederick Douglass, who declared to New Yorkers in 1865: “(Lincoln was) the first American President who … rose above the prejudice of his times, and country.”
As Martin Luther King dreamt, we continue to work toward a country, and a county “… where (my four little children) will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
In Kane County, IL, we are proud to be inspired by the examples of King and Lincoln. Where these two great leaders dealt with important issues of race and equality, today we honor their memories by doing all we can to ensure that all the people of Kane County are represented in their local government.
Kane County Board standing committee chairmanships, as one small example, are assigned based on merit but with sensitivity and respect toward gender, political-party balance and racial/ethnic representation.
Within the population of those elected to 24 County Board seats, there are 15 men and nine women (37.5 percent women). Out of 14 chairmen assignments, there are seven men and seven women (50 percent).
In terms of political party balance, of the 24 board members elected, there are 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats (42 percent minority). Out of 14 chairmen assignments, all can be majority Republican Party selections. However, in Kane County, a proportional eight chairmen are Republicans and six chairmen are Democrats (43 percent leadership representation).
Finally, in terms of racial/ethnic balance, I am not even positive of our “definition” of every board member’s ethnicity and whether we should consider individuals alone or in blended families. Out of six or seven blended racial/ethnic families (25-29 percent minority), four of these members are chairmen of standing committees (57-67 percent leadership representation).
The point of this article is that representation is important — and my goal as chairman is to ensure that all demographic categories are reflected in leadership roles — but a person’s quality has nothing to do with his or her exterior appearance.
In his book, Mr. Fox uncovered a description of Lincoln’s physiognomy by an anonymous art critic for the New York Tribune writing in 1866: “His soul transfigures this scarred and craggy face as sunset strikes against a mountain side, and changes rugged cliff, and black ravine, and darkest wood into golden or rosy cloud.”
Lincoln exemplified the ideal (small “r”) republican life course: self-improvement in youth, public service in adulthood and sacrifice at the peak of his power.
Dr. King led a life of service and sacrifice so that future generations could hope to see a promised land of fairness and equality.
I know we can never measure up to the achievements of these two great Americans, but we can strive every day to be true to their legacy.
Kane County Board chairman