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We Are Cincinnati - Remarks from President Woody Keown

Today, I stood with leaders from across our community to unite against hate and declare We Are Cincinnati. I’m sharing the remarks I delivered today as a commitment to our mission against hate and in support of inclusive freedom for all.

“Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today as we stand up, speak out, and unite against hate. I'm Woody Keown, and I have the honor to serve as President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

On March 21, about eight weeks ago, we came together as a community united against hate towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Last week, the reporting forum ‘Stop AAPI Hate’ released a national report that revealed that the number of incidents reported surged nearly 75% since March of this year alone. Friends, we clearly have work to do.

As Memorial Day and the 4th of July approaches, we will again hear the platitudes of liberty and freedom upon which this nation was founded. But we'll remain silent about the unfreedoms and the injustice that are a scar on our national soul. We'll celebrate our historically- designated Founding Fathers, who most people give all the credit for building this nation. But many people will ignore those people of color – Black enslave people and sharecroppers, Chinese railroad workers, Latino farmworkers and many others – for their significant economic, technological, military, and civic contributions to making America the world's most powerful country. US News calls it ‘the world's most dominant economic and military power" and notes… now its "cultural imprint spans the world.’

The irony is that the American myth has glamorized our nation as a melting pot, built by immigrants and made vibrant by the diversity of cultures that make up our national identity. While our vibrancy is indeed the product of the beautiful diversity imbued in the word American, it has not and is not a story of harmony. We identify as Americans our indigenous peoples and descendants of African, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Latino heritage. However, that hyphen that marries their ancestral homes and their modern homes has too long stripped them of the full rights, security, and dignity afforded to other Americans.

Today, we push back against the marginalization of who we are. Today, we demand fair and equitable treatment. We do not ask for homogenization or ask you to look past our ethnic and racial identities. We are only seeking the full respect, dignity, and humanity called for under our constitution and that we rightly deserve.

Today, we say we are not a footnote in history or a sidebar in textbooks, and we are not outsiders or pawns in our national story. We, too, are its heroes.

America is our nation, and we challenge everyone to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all Americans of all backgrounds. We challenge everyone to enjoy the vibrancy that can occur when we embrace people of all colors. But that is not enough. We should all aim for the greatness of the bright and beautiful nation that will be ours – if only we include everyone and paint America's work of genius with all our colors, not just a few.

In conclusion, we are all proud of our nation's global status, but I would argue that we cannot – will not - achieve real greatness until we become a more fully equitable and inclusive nation for all people. That's the true American Dream we should all seek, and we should accept nothing less.

Thank you.”

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