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Village Matters: Exercising Freedom

By Ann Christoph.

By Ann Christoph.

Were the famous founding fathers who wrote and voted for the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate this week just like some of the leaders of our home-created organizations?

It’s hard to imagine but in the 1770s there were only 2.5 million people in the whole country—then the 13 original colonies. Similarly, Orange County today has a population of 3 million. Right here there could be leaders comparable to those who formed our country.

Yet we’re not taking on the overwhelming task of creating a whole new country.

We are taking on the tasks presented by our own times.  And we’re doing it within the setting of freedom set up by those early decision makers.  Because of them we have the freedom to see a need or a problem and set about solving it in our own ways. Under suppressing dictatorship or bureaucratic communism would we be free to creatively seek and implement improvements in our community? Would new ideas develop?

As people who feel passionate about a cause or project we can band together, first to talk and plan, and then to take action, just as the founding fathers did, but we do it without fear of a monarchy’s reprisals.

Laguna Beach is full of dedicated thinkers and doers who make taking-action their life’s focus.

Our hospital, fire department, water districts, art museum, schools and the city itself came about because community leaders met and took action.

Jim Dilley conceptualized the Greenbelt, that has now become a 20,000-acre open space preserve around our city.  The Laguna Canyon Conservancy helped preserve it.

It wasn’t just back then. Leadership groups continue to surface and persevere to address community needs.

Schoolpower raises funds to build our kids’ education.

Laguna Beach Community Concert Band and Laguna Beach Live keep music in our lives. No Square Theater, the Park Avenue Players and the Playhouse give us drama.

Friends of the Library keep our library local and well equipped.

The Historical Society preserves photo archives and makes us aware of the fascinating events and people that are the reason our town is the way it is.

Village Laguna protects our village character.

Friendship Shelter, founded by a small group of concerned residents, now provides a place to stay for 100 homeless people every night.

The Patriot’s Day Parade gives all these organizations and many more an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership in the community.

Some individuals stand out. The Supreme Court’s decision, making a huge step forward toward marriage equality nationwide, brings to my mind the courageous former mayor and councilmember, Bob Gentry.  As the first openly gay public official in Orange County, he was a leader in gay rights. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he championed the council’s approval of ordinances against discrimination due to sexual orientation, AIDS and HIV, and for city registration of domestic partnerships. At a time when being openly gay was very risky and controversial, Gentry used his leadership position boldly.  But he not only directly promoted gay rights, but he furthered the cause by demonstrating competent, forward thinking leadership on many other issues.  Could he have envisioned that just 20 years later, there would be national validation of LGBT equality? His boldness was a part of making that happen.

Bringing boldness, freshness and enthusiasm, a confidence that something new and strange could be the next best solution, organizing and working hard for the overall good…this is implementing freedom.

 

Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.

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