One of the hallmarks of American democracy and civic life is volunteerism and helping others. Volunteer associations and organizations that provide assistance and services to help those in need have always been a fundamental component of democratic government and the American Way of Life. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “ May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.” The connection between democracy and volunteerism and the ethic of community service was evident in ancient Greece, where its pioneering direct democracy paved the way for the evolution of participatory democracy as a feature of modern societies around the world. Aristotle summarized the Greek view, “What is the essence of life? To serve others and do good.”
LIkewise, a critical component of the response to the COVID-19 crisis nationwide and in our friendly little beach town has been the overwhelming call to service by civic organizations and individuals. This reflects what President George H.W. Bush declared was critical about serving others, “ We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light.” His son, President George W. Bush, echoed this statement in a recent virtual talk to mayors across the country where he discussed the importance of “..the acts of kindness that are taking place in your cities. All those actions really do speak to the greatness of America.”
In Imperial Beach, organizations such as the Imperial Beach Neighborhood Center under the leadership of John Griffin-Atil have directed the very effective and leaderful COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Force to address the humanitarian aspects of the crisis. With dozens and dozens of volunteers, the Task Force has distributed food to the needy and carried out countless volunteer actions and events that have made a huge difference in helping our community weather this crisis. The always-thinking-of-others members of the Imperial Beach Athletic Club have been active in the Task Force, as well as the Suncoast Market Co-op. The Co-op adapted and pivoted to provide weekly and exceptionally healthy farm-fresh grocery boxes from Specialty Foods to those in need.
The extended members of the Mayor’s Task Force on COVID-19 have been working hard to address the humanitarian and economic crisis we face. Through the Task Force, my city council colleagues Paloma Aguirre, Bobby Patton, Ed Spriggs and Mark West have carried out decisive, collaborative and impactful actions to help our community. This has really played out in ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of the staff and residents of Sun & Sea Manor. City staff, most notably Fire Chief and Public Safety Director John French has worked tirelessly with San Diego County officials to make sure the Manor has adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). I would also like to thank Dr. Matt Dickson of South Bay Urgent Care, Dr. Eric Leute of the Imperial Beach Community Clinic and Dr. Ramon Hernandez of the UCSD School of Medicine Department of Community Health for all their efforts to swiftly address the public health crisis we are facing as well as work with County officials to ramp up COVID-19 testing in Imperial Beach.
Our entire City of Imperial Beach City staff under the leadership of City Manager Andy Hall have moved quickly to maintain city services and keep our residents safe. We are also lucky to have had such proactive essential business whose owners and workers have been so critical during this pandemic. Finally, our Public Safety Staff of Lifeguards, Firefighters, Paramedics and Sheriffs have done an outstanding job of protecting public health and safety.
As we now move to a phased re-opening, please remember to practice physical distancing, wear a facial covering as required, and continue to wash your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds as much as possible. So in the spirit of Memorial Day, when we honor those who gave their lives to defend our great nation, let’s continue to work together to do good and give back to others. After all, it’s the American Way.