Response from City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian
I received an e-mail response today from City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian regarding my earlier post about his invocation at the Aug. 11 City Council meeting.
To read the original post, click here.
Here is Kassakhian’s response:
“On August 11, 2009, I read the following invocation into the record at the start of the regularly scheduled City Council meeting:
‘As emotions have runneth over in recent days over issues of political and personal opinion, we remember to pray for civility and respect for our fellow residents and participants in this process. Someone once remarked that what this country needs is more free speech worth listening to. Tonight let us learn to think, listen and speak so that our speech will not only be worth listening to, but it will move the hearts, minds and souls of those listening. Amen.’
In her new web blog, hard working city hall reporter Melanie Hicken observed that my invocation sounded like “like a not-so-veiled jab at City Council critic Mike Mohill, who has become embroiled in tense exchanges with council members in recent weeks”
I want to take this opportunity to clear the air. The invocations that I write and read at council meetings are never intended for any individual in particular nor are they to one-up or jab anyone. In fact, although the incident from the previous week wherein Mr. Mohill’s comments prompted two council members to walk out of the meeting may have been cause for many to think about free speech in public discourse, the true impetus for my thoughts and words were from the coverage of the national health care debate. During the last few weeks we have witnessed some Americans, at town halls around the country, behaving in a manner that is neither patriotic nor American in spirit. People have verbally and even physically assaulted fellow citizens, public officials, and others who may not share their views or opinions. Regardless of one’s party affiliation, everyone can agree that the damage this causes to the most basic of our American rights – to gather and share views and ideas – cannot be dismissed. What example do we set for the next generation who looks to our model to follow? How does this behavior add to the dialogue or encourage others to also participate?
Our ability to express differing opinions civilly with each other is one of our greatest national attributes. There is a time and place for certain kinds of behavior. A public gathering for the purpose of exchanging ideas and asking questions is not the place for verbal assaults or any other type of intimidation tactics. We’ve been fortunate not to have any such shenanigans in our own Chambers but we’ve had occasions when individuals from both sides of the railing, speak when they aught to listen.
The Council Invocation is an opportunity for us to remind ourselves of the values we prescribe to when we put our faith in each other to self govern. It is the only time during a public meeting when neither the legislative body, nor city staff, nor the public is allowed to speak, but are required to quietly contemplate these concepts and the forces that guide individuals toward them. Interpretation of an invocation is not predetermined and each person will undoubtedly view them through their own lenses, as was done in this particular case. ”
Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian