LETTER TO THE EDITOR - Nothing gained in attack over diversity issue

Monday, September 10, 2001

From the angry tone of her letter, she should have counted to ten before sending it. We understand the strong feelings she has about the "diversity issue," but it appears that this has caused her to read motives into his remarks that don't exist. As she herself stated, Dr. Richardson has always advocated tolerance. He has been a pillar of this community since we were children in Storm Lake, and continuing after he choose to retire here in later years. He's always been a concerned, well-informed, involved volunteer; and the "look up from your coffee remark" she made was unwarranted and petty.

We were interested that she was "embarrassed" that his letter was printed. Isn't that very freedom of expression one of the freedoms that people from so many countries have been seeking when they move here? We personally took Dr. Richardson's statements about the slogan "The World's Hometown" to mean that it simply seems a rather presumptuous and overstated claim to fame for a very small Midwestern town like ours. Compared to innumerable larger towns and cities in Iowa and elsewhere, we are hardly an example of a major melting pot. "The City Beautiful" is a positive, upbeat slogan that brings to mind a pleasant place to live and work. It makes a person want to visit - as it always has.

It's true Storm Lake and this county are going through a time of adjustment now due to the large number of immigrants that have arrived in a relatively short period of time. This adjustment is not only for these immigrants, who have hopefully found a better way of life than they had. But it's also a huge social and economic adjustment for the local government and citizens that struggle to deal with the changes. This being realistic. But as she said, great strides have been made, and it will only get better with time - if it's given time to do so naturally. Such adjustment can't be forced, but will come.

In my Storm Lake travel business we've been fortunate to meet many new residents, and BVU students from abroad. This has been a positive experience for us. These people are, for the most part, very friendly, conscientious, hard-working and are grateful for the help we can give them. Of course, the language barrier exists but is improving. Like all of us, they are simply trying to live their lives the best they can. Shouldn't this sameness be stressed, and not the differences? This doesn't mean that we shouldn't all celebrate our heritage - this is why in Buena Vista County we have Danish Days, Feast of St. Lucia, Oktoberfest and wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. Why not Asian dancing and Latin music? All of our forebears came from somewhere else. And as Dr. Richardson would surely say, we're all God's people.

Webster's definition of "diversity" is "a state or an instance of difference or unlikeness." Is this a positive image? Or should we be helping these people assimilate as Iowans, by emphasizing the ways that we're all alike? Certainly, when Offenburger engages in this type of character assassination toward a respected senior citizen, nothing is gained.

Sara and Jim Gailey