What's Left Ypsilanti

The Look In Their Eyes

Anne Brown

I recently had the opportunity to give remarks at New Americans Got Talent, a St. Vincent Catholic Charities event launching World Refugee Week. This is a week set aside to celebrate new citizens, their cultural beliefs, dress, and an understanding of why they are considered refugees.

I chose to focus on the theme "Honoring the Journey," because each person shared a very personal story about what issue forced them to flee their country. We heard from speakers the lessons learned along their routes to freedom, and how those lessons will shape their lives forevermore. They talked about the many hardships endured: family separation, lack of food, limited if any medical services, and limited access to the basic necessities many of us often take for granted. The look in their eyes was one of hope and promise.

As I waited to go to the podium I circulated around the room and talked to those who set up displays with some of the artifacts that reflected the history of their home countries. I started to think about the many rights we've fought for and gained, and that right now people are fighting to retain voting rights and to expand the definitions outlined in laws such as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibiting discriminatory practices. We are fighting for clean drinking water, clean water to recreate, having a voice at the table, and to be heard at the table. I thought about what a privilege it is to fight for those things as I'm listening to folks who are literally fighting for basic human rights: freedom and access to who they can become. During that process, instead of talking about the road traveled or the road ahead, I decided to focus on a national struggle: integrity of heart.

Integrity of heart is a key leadership trait that drives how we see others and how we treat them in the course of doing business or during an interaction.

Integrity of heart is choosing not to abandon the truth. That truth is that we are created equal—but we have to also see each other as equal.

Integrity of heart honors your story because it doesn't take away from my story but adds richness to both our lives.

Integrity of heart means I'll advocate for you if I'm seated at the table and that you will do the same for me.

Anytime the challenges of life start to weigh on me, I think back to that night we were all gathered at St. Casimir Church celebrating the New Americans and I remember the look in their eyes—a look of hope and promise. And I Rise!

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