Community and Diversity: a transcript of my remarks

On Thursday, April 16, 2017, five Independent candidates combined forces to hold a “meet-and-greet” event at the Knights of Columbus banquet hall in Lansing, Illinois. An estimated 150–174 guests showed up to meet us and get a sense of the kind of people we are.

Each candidate gave a short speech (3–6 minutes), and then we dispersed into the crowd to answer questions personally. Guests hung around for about an hour and a half to talk and listen. It was an energizing evening.

I wrote out my little speech ahead of time, and I’m posting it here for anyone who wants to review it. It’s not an exact transcript of how I worded things during the live event, but it will give you a sense of the “community” and “diversity” parts of my platform that I chose to highlight that evening.

community diversity

Community and Diversity
My name is Melanie Jongsma. I am running as an Independent candidate for Village Trustee.

Before I tell you a little about myself, could I just take a moment to give a shout-out to my parents, who are here tonight? Many of you know them–Allen and Patti Jongsma. They will be celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary next week, so I wanted to publicly embarrass them a little. Seriously, my parents are in their 70s, both just recently retired, and they offered to come out tonight and help me as well as the other candidates. That’s just the kind of people they are. Everything I know about hard work and selfless service, I learned from my parents’ example. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

You know, I love Lansing. I grew up here, and I’ve lived in several different Lansing neighborhoods throughout my lifetime here. I spent my childhood on Escanaba Avenue, near Lan-Oak Park. Moved to Sherman Street, right near the train tracks. I lived on Lake Street near Lansing Christian School, and 182nd Place behind the Chase Bank. And now I live in the Villas of Lansing, at 186th and Oakwood.

My experience has been that all these neighborhoods are filled with wonderful people–people who know each other’s names, who look out for each other, who shovel each other’s driveways during winters when we actually get snow! These are people who play together and laugh together and enjoy real community together. To me, that’s Lansing–that genuine community. I love that.

Now, our communities today are more diverse than they were when I was growing up–and I find that exciting! I think this community diversity is an opportunity, a strength to be celebrated. In fact, Lansing’s diversity is a valuable resource we should be leveraging as we make plans for a vibrant future.

Of course, diversity makes some people uncomfortable, even afraid. I understand that. Whenever you’re meeting people who look different from you and sound different from you, that can feel a little risky. And no matter what color you are, when you feel at risk, fear is a natural reaction. I do understand that. But I also know there are ways to acknowledge those fears and navigate through them to build real relationships based on trust and mutual respect. I have experience with this, and I want to bring that experience to my role as Trustee.

In fact, my cross-cultural, relationship-building, team-building skills are an asset on a Board like ours where there is hard work to be done and real problems to be solved and big goals to be accomplished. We need our Board to function as a team, and I am eager to get to work and do my part.

As your Trustee, I will do much more than show up for meetings twice a month. I want to be a resource for the Department Heads I’m assigned to–asking them questions, offering ideas, and really understanding the work they do. And I want to be accessible to the people I represent–the regular, everyday people who fill our neighborhoods and attend our schools and shop our businesses. I also want to make sure communication flows both ways, so that when people ask a question, they get an answer. There are a lot of good things going on in Lansing, but people aren’t aware of them because communication needs to be improved. I can help with that.

There are more details in the “Melanie” flyer on your tables, and if you want the even longer version of my platform that I published online, I will be happy to email a link to you. Make sure you give me your contact information before you leave.

I would love to have your vote on April 4, and I would love for you to vote for all the Independent candidates you’ve heard from tonight! We would make a great team, and we are eager to get to work for Lansing.

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