At long last, 2020 is behind us. We asked a number of community leaders to share their thoughts as we roll into 2021.
Most Rev. Michael G. Duca
Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge
“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
These words of Fr. James Keller, the founder of the Christophers, are powerful antidotes to the darkness of 2020 and a hopeful inspiration for 2021.
The trials of 2020 came upon us quickly, and we forgot our normal reaction to the dark, that being to look for the light. As we begin 2021 it’s time, if we haven’t already done so, to light a few candles.
The first candle is Prayer, which opens our hearts to the Light of the World, a light we cannot create but when received brings new hope, dispelling the darkness that surrounds us, even breaking through the darkness of grief as we mourn deaths of loved ones.
This Light of Christ, the light of God’s love, opens our eyes to see the blessings that surround us, allowing us to light the candle of Thankfulness.
With thankful hearts we discover we are blessed, not cursed, so we light the candle of Love, generously sharing its warmth through concern for neighbors in need.
I pray we’ll remember 2021 as the year the Light broke through the darkness, making us more prayerful, thankful and loving.
Sharon Weston Broome
Mayor-President, East Baton Rouge Parish
The New Year brings East Baton Rouge Parish new opportunities — to overcome adversities, to create innovative solutions, and to build a stronger foundation for our community.
Over the last 10 months, Baton Rouge has endured numerous challenges, and we have seen our share of dark moments. As we move into 2021, brighter days are on the horizon. Our community can begin to see the light at the end of this tunnel with the advent of the COVID-19 vaccine. In a matter of months we could see a return to what many of us consider normal.
Moving forward, we must never forget those we lost during this time. We should also recognize the resilience we have all gained, knowing that we have everything we need to face our adversities.
As your Mayor-President, I see opportunity for our community in 2021. We are making transformative change by investing in our neighborhoods, accelerating our economy, and improving our quality of life. In our endeavors, we will keep the values of equity and inclusion close to our hearts and work to bring peace, prosperity and progress to everyone.
As we take these next steps into 2021, we must act on faith — faith in ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. Growth takes work. It takes courage. It will depend on our faith and on our prayers.
Prayer and possibility go hand in hand, and when we stand firm in our trust in God we are capable of turning our visions into results.
I look forward to making strides with you in 2021 and beyond.
Ray L. Belton
President-Chancellor, Southern University
Southern University entered the year 2020 with boldness, strength and jubilance. After all, we were celebrating our 140th year of existence as a higher education institution in Louisiana.
We marked the occasion with the annual pilgrimage to our founders’ grave sites, honoring their service and dreams that propelled Southern from one campus to five, ultimately becoming and remaining the only system of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the nation.
One day after this powerful observance, the whole world shut down. COVID-19 was here. Our campus communities in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport quickly went into action to ensure that our students, employees and other stakeholders were safe. Words cannot express how honored I am to serve alongside my colleagues who kept everything moving onward and upward in the face of their own challenges and losses.
Our campuses thrived with corporate and alumni giving, partnerships with major entities, enrollment and retention, reaffirmation of accreditation, and much more.
The most fulfilling accomplishment, as always, was the graduation of hundreds of students from around the globe. Not only did these students graduate with degrees that would aid them in the workforce, they graduated with heightened diligence for a brighter future for themselves, their families and communities. This is why we continue to move forward no matter what.
We are Southern, and we are excited about the prospect of advancing our goals and serving the interests of this great state, nation and world. We do so once again with boldness, strength and jubilance.
Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade
Executive director, Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge
A year ago we turned the calendar to 2020, daring to hope for the clarity of 20/20 vision to match the number of the year. We could not begin to imagine what our eyes would be asked to see and our hearts to bear. Let us remember that 20/20 vision may mean we see clearly, but it doesn’t guarantee that we will like the view.
During 2020, we have seen with our own eyes the ravaging impact of this relentless enemy called coronavirus. Human life has been lost to death. Many face financial loss. Some do not know where tonight’s meal will be found. All of this is compounded by deep racial and social injustices interwoven into the fabric of our society. We have seen our beloved country divided against itself. Enough is enough.
But there is more. We have witnessed with our eyes the sacrifices of medical providers and caregivers who daily serve on the front line. We have observed ordinary people transformed into extraordinary heroes as they provide essential services. We have watched the best of humanity extend countless acts of kindness. Despite how it may feel, we are not alone in this journey.
I hope 2020 has inspired us to turn for strength and guidance to the One who created us — each and everyone one of us — and to turn to each other willing to recognize our shared humanity. I hope we might tap into a deep reservoir of compassion in order to encourage and support each other through the challenges ahead. I hope each of us will be intentional about making a difference for good. I pray we can move to unity, as in ONE, the last number in 2021.
At-large member, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education; associate professor of political science at LSU
2020 was a year of great loss for many Louisiana families and a year of daunting challenges for state and local governments. The year laid bare many of our state’s most pressing problems; the good news is that the pandemic has made solving them a priority.
It is clear that we cannot allow our rural communities and our low-income families to lag behind in internet access. Internet connectivity is a major component of student success and economic growth. There is new hope that policymakers and the business community will work together to close the connectivity gap.
The pandemic also highlighted the crucial role schools play in our children’s lives. When schools and early childhood centers are closed, children go hungry, child abuse goes underreported, and our children’s mental health suffers. 2021 is our opportunity to catalog all that we ask of our schools and to make sure they have the resources they need to fulfill those obligations.
Finally, we all now have a greater appreciation for the hard work of teachers and school support staff. Whether you were a parent struggling to navigate online learning or an employer whose workers were strained by school and child care closures, there is a clearer understanding of the critical role schools play in the lives of Louisiana families. Together in this new year, we can apply what we’ve learned from these challenges to create a more compassionate and just education system that prioritizes children and families — that’s the definition of real education reform.
Hillar C. Moore III
District Attorney, 19th Judicial District
It has been an honor to serve this great parish as its district attorney and to lead an office of hardworking and dedicated individuals for the past 12 years. I look forward to adding to the accomplishments that we achieved this past year into 2021.
For many, 2020 was a year like no other. Like other cities, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the challenges our community already faced with domestic violence, homelessness, drug overdoses, and gun violence.
In 2020, our community, like so many others around the country was plagued by increased homicide and domestic violence offenses. We also saw other vulnerable populations like those who are addicted to drugs and who are fighting mental health issues overdose and die at the hands of illegal opioids. This is unacceptable. Baton Rouge is better than what the data reflects.
Despite what was a difficult and violent year, we accomplished many good things in 2020 — our jail population was reduced to the lowest it has been in decades; we found innovative ways to keep our youth engaged and away from violence through TRUCE and Tyrann Mathieu’s “The Shift”; the Bridge Center and the Family Justice Center were both opened to aid some of our most vulnerable populations.
Thanks to the remarkable collaboration and innovation from all of our justice partners, we have a strong foundation to build on in 2021. In this new year, I find confidence and renewed hope in our community and justice system. We must all commit to do our part to help those we love feel safer and to ensure Baton Rouge will have a justice system that reflects the values of our community, and recognizes the humanity of all involved.
I wish everyone a safe and fulfilling 2021.