The new year begins with a fresh opportunity, a fresh necessity in Oak Park and River Forest to live by our shared values. That we promulgate those values. That we work to further those values in the wider world.
Our hometown values of inclusion, equity, stewardship, and good government are broadly under attack in our nation. The year just ended has been a dismal one with Donald Trump, the worst president in our history, pounding away at values and institutions that we believed defined us and united us. That battle has been joined as a widening swath of Americans come to see Trump’s tactics of division as anathema to the broad ideals of our nation. This new year will be rocky, for certain.
But here at home this week, Wednesday Journal again names our Villagers of the Year for Oak Park and River Forest. This annual recognition is for the individuals we see as having had the greatest impact on our communities in the year just past. In Oak Park we chose Anthony Clark, an educator, activist, and now a candidate for the U.S. Congress. Donna Carroll, president of Dominican University, is our choice in River Forest.
What links Clark and Carroll, in our estimation, is their willingness, their determined and strategic drive, to live the values of these communities, to passionately use the tools they have to put their values into force.
Carroll has long led her Catholic university on the path of social justice. In recent years, and especially under the assault of 2017, she has made Dominican a leader in welcoming Hispanic students, many undocumented, to the River Forest campus. She has been a champion for Dreamers even as Trump has thrown their status into chaos. Most interesting to us has been watching the critical role that Carroll and Dominican played last year in guiding River Forest’s village government into its bold declaration as a Welcoming Community.
Clark, who has been applauded and occasionally upbraided on this page, is recognized for his boundless energy and skill in prompting people into action on a wide range of complex issues. Whether it was using his social media network and OPRF connections to help organize a vigil in Scoville Park after a young student’s death, his work across the divide on Austin Boulevard between Oak Park and the West Side on issues of crime and connection, or, now, in running in the Democratic primary for Danny Davis’ 7th Congressional seat, Clark is tireless and effective in bringing a growing number of people to live their values and engage consciously in uncomfortable conversations.
We will need more champions in 2018 if we are to stay true to our values and act on those values in the wider world.