Fort Report: George Floyd

Jun 5, 2020

I originally drafted the letter below to send to Nebraskans who had written in about the trauma in our country over the tragic death of George Floyd, the ensuing nationwide protests, and the need to go deeper in this national conversation.  However, upon reflection, I thought I should send this to all Nebraskans:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me to express your concerns about recent events affecting our nation.  I greatly appreciate hearing from you.  Please be assured that I noted your specific comments. 

The cruel, senseless death of George Floyd has caused a great deal of national trauma.  In the initial aftermath, I called my friend Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who originally hails from Chadron and is a former colleague from the House of Representatives.  I wanted to express support and solidarity as the Governor dealt with the initial outcry and reactions.

Let's be clear about several truths: Racism is wrong; Police brutality is wrong; Violence in the name of protests is also wrong. “I can’t breathe” is a cry for help.  The violence and destruction that have sadly comingled with peaceful protests have only compounded the suffering and disruption we’ve felt.

As we move forward in the coming weeks and months to address these issues, we should work to achieve a delicate balance between safety and compassion in communities.  These are mutually reinforcing principles.  A safe environment creates the condition for proper redress.  Compassion creates the condition for understanding. 

In a recent Open Letter to the Police Officers of Lincoln, I thanked them for their service and their willingness to embrace the necessary conversation about stopping police brutality.  I invite you to read the letter here:

Congress may choose to legislatively address issues raised by recent events, but the ultimate solution lies in creating nurturing, vibrant, safe communities rooted in human dignity, in which each person matters.  This will help to foster authentic relationships between citizens and law enforcement.  As part of this dialogue, we must also remember that the constitutionally protected right to protest does not give one the right to engage in violence against persons or property.  That undermines the right to legitimate free expression.

There is a sign in Lincoln quoting legendary Nebraska author, Willa Cather, the statue of whom will soon appear in the United States Capitol.  It reads: "There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm."  I hope we learn things from the current storm that will help us achieve a more perfect union.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your views.  America is facing economic, health, and societal challenges that will require patience, persistence, dialogue, and action.  I remain hopeful that we will rise to the occasion as a strong and united people, just as we have at other critical hinge moments in our history. 



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