Resilience doesn’t seem like a skill one learns. If you ask people how they define resilience, they will likely tell you that it is an action or a quality obvious in some and perhaps less prominent in others. I disagree. While “being” or “acting” typically characterizes resilience, I believe the tools of resilience are intimately connected to the values we learn when we are young and the communities in which we live those values as we grow. Resilience is built upon shared experiences.
For me, this value begins with a truly remarkable human being, my mom. The story of this value isn’t about her being a single mother; it isn’t about growing up in poverty and our struggle to overcome it; it’s about what I learned by watching her every day as she fought to give me a shot at success. My mom, working late nights in her tireless effort to protect my future, set the foundation for the person that I am today.
Understanding the value of resilience also means understanding that, while my mother dedicated herself to improving our lives, we could not have done it alone. When we lost our home in a natural disaster, it was the economic safety net that saved our lives and gave me and my mom a change to start again. We lived in a garage in the inner city for two years while our old home was rebuilt with public subsidy. Resilience was a shared experience between me and my mother, but beyond that, resilience is an eminently social endeavor. My mom is a fighter, but the opportunity we’ve had is, in part, due to a community coming together and funding through taxes social projects that protect the least-well-off from the uncertainties of illness, aging, injury, unemployment, and in our case, natural disaster.
The value of resilience is fundamental to Tempe’s history and character. We are a city of innovators and creators, strivers and fighters, but we also lift one another up and carry each other through challenging times. When the state was engaged in belt tightening at the expense of Arizona’s children, Tempe took up the mantle of responsibility to the next generation and passed bonds necessary to fund our schools. When natural disaster places the safety of our neighbors at risk, out city provides grants to help the our most vulnerable residents repair their homes. Subsidized mass transit ensures that every child in Tempe as access to the city. Our multigenerational centers offer food, after school programs, and education resources that make a world of difference for parents on a tight budget.
This is the resilience that I believe in and the Tempe that I know and love. As a city council member, it will be my responsibility to ensure that Tempe continues to be an example for other cities to follow, a leader in building communities that put people first and recognize that resilience is a collective efforts in which we each play a role to support one another.