Nurse Gregory was on a cruise when she noticed several other nurses tending to a group of people with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities. She was taken aback as she had never seen nurses working in this capacity and caring for people with such kindness. It was amazing, she thought to herself, so she asked the group how they got into this type of work. It was here that Ms. Gregory first heard about WellLife Network. She immediately applied for a job and is now going on her 19th year as Registered Nurse (RN) with the organization.
“I got a different perspective from a different side of nursing at WellLife, and it is very moving,” said Nurse Gregory. When asked why she has stayed at WellLife for so long, she told us, “This is a very unique nursing job. The individuals you work with become like family. That is why I’m still here.”
Ms. Gregory is 1 of 50 nurses employed by WellLife Network. “We have multiple divisions, and each division brings their own approach to their respective program,” said Leonard White, Director of Nursing at WellLife. Nurses like Ms. Gregory work in our housing and day habilitation programs, monitoring the health of our participants and administering medication.
“We provide a lot of individual care, it is a lot like case management,” said Leonard, who explained the various roles the nurses play at WellLife. “The nurses help when the doctors need it, they provide training to the nurses that are coming in, they go above and beyond and wear different hats while doing it,” White elaborated.
In our Mental Health Division, we met with Gary Martin, a nurse with 37 years of experience, who started at WellLife in January 2022. “I sit here working in Smithtown–and I have worked in lots of environments–this is an extremely professional environment” he said. WellLife Network was recommended to Gary from a friend who knew of his extensive background in psychiatric nursing. Although he was retired and initially skeptical of returning to this field, he now believes it was the best decision he ever made. “It’s not about the income it’s about me providing care and me being comfortable about what I’m doing.”
Gary works for the WellLife PROS Program where he provides outpatient services and administers medication for people with mental health challenges. “I used to work inpatient for years and it was incredibly intense, the patients are very unpredictable and sometimes it could get dangerous. But this job is different. I am very blessed,” said Gary. “This job has been very good to me. I ask myself ‘where was this job 30 years ago?’”
One of the things that Gary loves most about WellLife is being able to see his clients doing well in the community. He will often see participants while shopping and going about his daily routine, and they will give him a smile and a wave. It is a small gesture, but it means a lot to Gary who knows that he was able to play a role in this person’s ability to live independently in the community.
In many cases, nursing means long hours, difficult shifts, working different roles, and always being in high demand. While the pandemic may have set a lot of people back and pushed others to work remotely, nurses did not have the same fate. In fact, during the pandemic their workload doubled. As COVID-19 cases rose, some nurses had to come out of retirement to fill the national shortage.
WellLife Network is proud to celebrate National Nurse Day. Our nurses continually go above and beyond for their patients, showing compassion and truly caring for everyone they serve. It is amazing to have such a strong team of individuals dedicated to improving the health and wellness of New York’s most vulnerable people. "Nursing is an intricate part of our program and this place cannot function without them" said White, about all his nurses. From all of us at WellLife Network, thank you for your work and have a happy Nurse Day!
Written by: Howell Shrage, MD
Suicide rates are highest during the spring and early summer months of April, May, and June. This may seem hard to believe, but statistics over the last many years bear this out. It is a myth that the winter months lead to more suicides. In fact, December the darkest and one of the coldest months of the year has the lowest suicide rate.
Why do suicide rates rise in the Spring?
For Adults, Theories include:
A.) People who’ve struggled with depression during the winter continue to be depressed in the spring. Exposure to more daylight in the springtime increases energy and motivation which could turn someone who is passively suicidal into someone who is a danger to themselves.
B.) Depressed people are isolated during the winter months. When spring begins there is an expectation that people will spend time outdoors and socialize with friends. Missing out on this experience can worsen feelings of loneliness and disappointment and make people more likely to act on suicidal thoughts.
C.) There is an association between inflammation in the brain and mood disorders. Spring brings pollen and allergic reactions to some, and this results in an inflammatory response. It is hypothesized that inflammation may lead to depression or exacerbate the symptoms of those already experiencing depression.
SUICIDE IS THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN TEENAGERS AGES 15-19.
For Teenagers, the reasons are clearer. The seasonal pattern relates to school issues. In the spring, high school seniors learn about college acceptances/rejections and are making the difficult decision about which college to attend. Other high school students who have struggled with their grades may be learning they are going to summer school or be repeating an academic year. These stressful situations can worsen already existing symptoms of anxiety and depression, possibly increasing the risk of suicidal behaviors. Noticeable changes in behavior in teenagers may include irritability, isolation, and impulsivity. When parents become aware of these behavioral changes, they should speak with their children.
Warning Signs of Suicide: If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of the following behaviors, he or she may be thinking about suicide. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Get help immediately.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
RESOURCES FOR WELLLIFE NETWORK STAFF: WellLife Network’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). For a private and confidential appointment with a counselor. Telephone Number: 1-888-209-7840
Resources for the general population:
24/7 National Crisis Hotlines
About the Author: Dr. Schrage is a practicing psychiatrist for some 34 years. He graduated from Downstate Medical Center and interned at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center. He received his Board Certification in psychiatry in 1987 and in 1996 received certification in psychiatry. Dr. Schrage has held many academic appointments and professional positions, most notably as the Medical Director, Geriatric Partial Hospital Program, Northern Westchester Hospital; Associate Clinical Director, Community Services, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center; Coordinator, Medical Student Education in Psychiatry Coordinator, Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Director of ECT Service, Northern Westchester Hospital. Dr. Schrage has published articles appearing in the American Journal of Psychiatry and has made presentations psychiatric conferences on HIV infection and the psychiatric patient.
In the shadow of Yankee Stadium, just beyond the hustle and bustle that is the 161st subway station in the Bronx, lies one of WellLife Network’s newest residences. Built in 2016, the 165th mixed-use apartment complex stands on a quiet street between a row of private houses. It has a beautiful backyard suitable for summer BBQ’s and plenty of green space. The staff who run the facility keep everything clean and in order. You can tell as soon as you arrive that they take pride in maintaining the property. Its an oasis. A safe haven nestled in the South Bronx.
Clint Nared is the Program Director of the 165th facility. He has worked at WellLife Network for 3 years. Prior to assuming his current role, he was a case manager where he placed people in our resident programs and provide them assistance in obtaining services. When asked what drew him to this role, he told us, “I love helping people, that’s what I do best.”
One of Clint’s top priorities is establishing a sense of community within the building. “I want to get more tenants to attend the monthly building meeting, that would be great,” Clint said, like many buildings the 165th residency holds monthly meetings to hear about any grievances or anything that could be improved.
Every month Clint posts fliers on the 1st floor bulletin board for the monthly building meeting. He also makes it a point to deliver fliers to each of the tenants. “I am trying to get more people to participate, you know that’s how we make decisions, as a community.” Attendance is important for voting and for staying up to date with ongoing developments.
The building has 58 units, housing 38 WellLife residents and 20 individuals from the community who qualify for low-income housing. It was built with state-of-the-art qualities some include self-service garbage disposals, gym rooms, a new laundry room, and even security for the building, these were all included for free for the resident’s use.
Working in the main office on the first-floor, Clint, does his rounds every morning to make sure everything is clean and checks on all the floors for any irregularities. “We make sure the people are getting everything they need, if they need money for groceries or laundry, we loan it to them,” Clint said, “if they need help with doctor’s appointment, making them or getting there we help arrange transportation.” While the program does lend out money when the individuals need it, they also try and encourage the individual to budget their money.
Clint works alongside Marilyn and Evelyn, who are both case workers and meet with the tenants as many times as needed, sometimes multiple times a month. “I have definitely seen my fair share of progress from the clients,” Evelyn said, “sometimes it’s good progress and sometimes people have setbacks, but you try to help them out in any way possible.”
Clint and Marylin
Alongside housing support, tenants have access to WellLife’s world class mental health resources. Dr. Max Banilivy, one of WellLife most prominent psychotherapist, is always available to help staff. He advises them on how to deal with difficult situation involving a mentally unwell individual. Residents also receive guidance and support in personal and community living skills and monitoring of their prescribed medications. Individuals are also encouraged to participate in rehabilitation and vocational program activities outside of their residence.
One of the tenants living in the building is Jose. Jose came to the WellLife from a shelter in Brooklyn. “I was homeless before then I was getting bounced around from shelter to shelter. One in Brooklyn then east New York then in queens, until finally my case worker told me to apply to WellLife for a permanent residency and I got it,” Jose said.
As a longtime resident of 165th he has found a way to focus his energy on something creative. He makes 3D models out of crafts some of the models include a full house setup with its own garden and picket fence, wooden barrels, an American fighter plane.
“I get inspiration from what I see outside or on Facebook,” he told me. The Puerto Rican native said he loves to create art, not sell it, with that one can see many pieces created by Jose around the building and some in staff offices.
Every resident has their own, unique story. Staff told us about Rafael, who came to the program without much direction. He was withdrawn and detached at first, but after working with him, our team was able to get him to open up. They found out that Rafael had a lot to offer the world. He wanted to do something positive with his life, but he didn’t know where to start. WellLife connected him with our peer specialist training program. As a Certified Peer Specialists, Rafael was able to help the clients to make informed, independent choices, set goals, and become active participants in the community. He excelled in the program and quickly found a job that he loved.
Recently, Rafael told us about a position with the MTA that he was too nervous to apply for. Our team gave him the confidence to try and helped through the process. We are proud to report that he got the job!
These are just two examples of the important work that is being done by WellLife Network. Our goal is to create a low-income mixed-use housing development which offer supportive, safe and nurturing environments where all tenants feel a sense of cohesion and belonging to a larger community.
March is National Social Work Month. National Professional Social Work Month is an opportunity for social workers across the country to turn the spotlight on the profession and highlight the important contributions they make to society.
This year’s theme for Social Work Month is “Social Workers are Essential.” Social workers are woven into the fabric of our society, although they are often unsung heroes. As our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and racial unrest social workers are needed more than ever.
WellLife Network is helping to celebrate and recognize Social Work Month and the outstanding work our social workers perform each and every day. Social work is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States, with more than 700,000 people employed in the field.
A Profession Dedicated to Helping People
WellLife Network's talented social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. Our social workers assist individuals with behavioral health and emotional issues and include many populations - children, people with disabilities and those with substance use issues.
During these very critical and trying times for the nation and the people we serve, our social workers confront some of the most challenging issues facing communities and society and forge solutions that help people reach their full potential.
Join me in congratulating WellLife Network's social workers on the outstanding job they perform each and every day to help individuals and families achieve their life’s goals.
With thanks and appreciation for all you do.
Sherry Tucker, CEO
The celebration of Women’s History month is inextricably tied to the suffrage movement of the early 1900s. It was at this time that women began to raise their voices in opposition to the status quo.
In 1840, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton conceptualized a gathering where women could comfortably speak on the events of the day without condemnation, and away from the prying eyes of a judgmental society. Eight years later in 1848, a group of like-minded women convened in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss the issue of women’s rights. Here it was agreed that American women were autonomous individuals who deserved their own political identities. And with this convening, the suffrage movement and the fight for women to gain the right to vote in the United States was born.
Armed with the rallying cry “Forward Through the Darkness, Forward into the light” the suffragette movement began. Along with the reformers Elizabeth Cady-Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B Anthony; were women of all backgrounds that lent their voices to this movement including African American activists Ida B Wells and Mary Church Terrell; indigenous women like Marie Bottineau Baldwin; Hispanic suffragette Trinidad Cabeza de Baca and Asian activist Mabel Ping-Hua.
The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years, but on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, enfranchising all American women, and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The ratification of the 19th Amendment reflected the culmination of generations of work by resolute suffragists of all races and backgrounds. On Election Day in November of 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time.
The suffragette movement of the early 1900s was the precursor to The Women's Rights movement of the 1960s and '70s which fought for women's freedom and equality. It upset long-established social norms and brought about groundbreaking changes in the American political and legal systems.
Women’s History Month commemorates the contributions of women to American culture and society; it has been observed annually in the month of March since 1987. It began when President Jimmy Carter declared that March 8 was officially the start of National Women's History Week which lead Congress to declare the entire month of March as Women's History Month. Since then, every president has continued to designate the month of March as Women's History Month.
The theme of the 2022 Women’s History Month celebration is “Women providing healing, promoting hope”. It pays tribute to women of all cultures that have provided both healing and hope throughout history. This year’s theme is particularly poignant given the COVID pandemic
During the month of March we celebrate those “glass ceiling” breaking women like VP Kamala Harris; Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian American astronaut; Chloe Zhao, the first Asian female to win a Best Director Oscar; Hillary Clinton, the first female Democratic Presidential nominee and Sarah Palin, first female Republican Vice Presidential nominee; those labor and Civil Rights activists like Rosa Parks and Delores Huerta; and LGBTQ activist Sylvia Rivera; scientist Kizzmekia Corbett, who helped develop the Moderna COVID vaccine and countless other history-making women in the arts, entertainment, politics, and sports. Currently, we are on the cusp of witnessing the first African American women, joining Justices Keegan, Sotomayor, and Barrett, as a Supreme Court Judge!!
Here’s to continuing to celebrate the achievements of American women and making HERstory!
Important dates in Women History
- The first major march on Washington by suffragists happened on March 3, 1913.
- The National Woman's Party was formed in March 1917. The group was dedicated to getting women the right to vote.
- Title IX was passed on March 1, 1972. In fact, the first-ever Women's History Week was created in order to bolster support for Title IX, which prohibited discrimination due to sex in federally funded education programs.
- The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in the Senate on March 22, 1972.
On a cold February day, I ventured to our Great Neck office to meet with Maggie Carine, a Board-Certified Art Therapist who works for the WellLife PROS program. I heard a lot of great things about this program and wanted to learn more about art therapy and how it helps the people we serve.
“Art therapy is no different than being a social worker or a mental health counselor. You are trained in art and use creativity as a way for your clients to express themselves,” she told me, as she talked me through the process.
Maggie, a Pratt Institute graduate, has a passion for sparking small successes that lead to big breakthroughs for WellLife participants. By using art as an outlet she is able to communicate with people in ways that others may not be able to. “It is a very interesting practice because you can talk about issues through their art and they don’t even realize they are talking about it,” she explained, “it’s through a metaphorical lens.”
Art therapy has helped participants develop their cognitive skills and has also become a self-esteem booster. For some of them, it is safer to bring up their problems through the characters they create and images that they draw. Luckily, art therapy is very tangible and comes in many different forms such as sculpting therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, the list goes on. “Many people get confused between being an art therapist and being an art teacher, but an art teacher is someone who tells you what is right and wrong,” she said, “we are trained to analyze the elements in the art rather than the style of art.”
Most of the individuals that attend the tri-weekly session don’t have any art background and begin with the simplest thing, drawing a happy face or even trying their hand at crafts. While some come eager to participate, others may need a little motivation in the form of artistic direction such as “can you help me paint this” or “can you cut this with me.” Maggie spoke to me about one participant who would come early in the morning before any of the staff and wait outside of the facility to open. Many of the workers would tell him that the program didn’t start until 11 AM, but he would still keep showing up. Shortly after beginning the art program, he started coming in at the proper time and participating more. This was a stark contrast to when he first began the program where he would sit alone, detached from the environment. “You’re giving them structure, you’re giving them permission to work on something bigger and it helps build confidence,” Maggie told me as she led me to the art room where I saw paintings, drawings, sculptures, and even pieces made from crafts.
To keep the program alive during COVID, WellLife sent out art kits to the participants so they could continue creating art at home. One of the participants, Michael, has been in the art therapy program for a few years and has contributed many of his pieces to be displayed at WellLife. He is not the only one. There are many participants who are also wonderful artists that have their work up for display all over the facilities. As Maggie showed me a drawing made on maroon construction paper of a face with a smile, drawn in purple crayon, she said, “I think this program helps the individual to see themselves and they’re not used to that.”
To learn more about our PROS program, visit:
Employee Appreciation Day is a day set aside for managers to recognize and appreciate their staff. At WellLife Network, I hope all of you know how much you are appreciated, not only today but EVERY DAY! Your hard work and dedication are the reason we can change lives by helping so many achieve their life goals and desires.
You Perform an Essential Role at WellLife
Each one of you plays an essential role in this organization. By working together, we do great things for all the individuals we serve. Because of this and in recognition of your hard work, we would like each program or location to throw yourselves a party sometime this month to celebrate YOU! Your managers will provide the details . . . you provide the smiles and the fun.
For today, I say THANK YOU to each one of you. I am humbled and proud to have the privilege of leading this agency. For me, every day is employee appreciation day. You are true heroes for the work that you do!
Sherry Tucker, CEO
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going to the emergency room with every illness, ailment, or injury that couldn’t be cured with a home remedy. It was just something my mother told me to do. In fact, I believed it was the only option for immediate medical treatment. I should have figured out that it wasn’t the best choice when they often sent me home with nothing more than ibuprofen and a huge bill. But what was my alternative? Make an appointment with my primary care doctor 3 months away? Why was it that every time that I got sick with the flu, food poisoning, or even a UTI, I thought that my only option was to rush 11 train stops down to a hospital for treatment? Why did no one tell me I could have received the same treatment a block away from my apartment at urgent care?
These questions remained unanswered for 30 years until my coworker asked me to work on this op-ed piece for human resources on the difference between going to the emergency room versus urgent care at a clinic. Wait…there’s a difference?!
The emergency room does have its benefits (24/7 service and a team of specialized doctors on hand being among them), and it does appear to be the most obvious choice. However, when you look at the average time it takes for you to complete a visit, you are looking at 2-3 hours at the ER versus a 30-minute at an urgent care.
I have my own personal experience with this excessive wait time. I used to spend half my day at the hospital waiting patiently for my name to get called. When it did, I would jump up, maybe a little too enthusiastically, and bear the stares of everyone watching as I went into the second area. It almost made me feel as if I had won something just by getting called, “yes! I had been chosen.”
If the wait time doesn’t put you off, maybe the cost will. On average a visit to the ER can run you from $1,300, the 2017 average, to $2,200, the average recorded in 2021 by United Health. It seems a bit high for a sore throat. In comparison, the average cost of a UC visit is exponentially less, running at about $100-$150 depending on the insurance and level of treatment. In fact, it is at the insurance company’s discretion to decide what constitutes “life-threatening” and “non-urgent.”
So, I will break it down. Flu and cold symptoms not life-threatening, ear infection not life-threatening, bronchitis not life-threatening, UTI painful, but not life-threatening, so what is life-threatening? Severe chest pains, paralysis, shortness of breath, vaginal bleeding with pregnancy, poisoning, allergic reactions, and unconsciousness, to name a few. Advice to remember, if the condition is not life-threatening, but needs treatment today, head to urgent care.
While it is easy to read this opinion piece and forget it a day later, ask yourself this question, do I want to go into crippling financial debt? I have been there. No, you don’t. So, think of this the next time the seasonal flu catches up to you and you need some ibuprofen.
WellLife Sets a High Bar for Services at Station Road Day Habilitation Program
We recently sat down with Syndie Leonard-Hamm, a Program Site Director with WellLife Network’s Developmental Disabilities Division. Syndie manages four WellLife Day Habilitation (Day Hab) programs located throughout Queens. These sites include Station Road, Long Island City Day Hab, Queens Without Walls, and Lennox Without Walls. We met Syndie at the Station Road program, which currently serves 122 individuals who have Intellectual/Development Disabilities (I/DD). Defining Success: According to Syndie, “success is all about the small wins.” She told us about a client who came to WellLife Network with extreme behavior issues. This person would throw herself on the ground, rip her clothes, scream, and display self-inflicting behavior (SIB). Around the same time, a non-verbal individual joined the program. This person was unable to control their aggression toward staff and exhibited SIB. Today, both are model program participants who meaningfully engage in classroom activities with zero behavioral issues. “The other day (the non-verbal participant) came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘hi.’ She is extremely introverted so having her come up to me like that was a major milestone,” said Syndie. This type of transformation is common at Station Road and a testament to the tremendous work of Syndie and her dedicated staff.
A Day in the Life of Syndie:
We met Syndie on a cold February day in Queens, NY. She sported a long-sleeved pastel pink shirt, blue jeans, fuzzy socks, and black crocs. Her disarming charm and warmth made us feel instantly welcomed. Southern hospitality is one of the many personable attributes that she maintains from her upbringing in Florida. As the Program Director, Syndie keeps vigilant supervision over the participants and staff at each of her facilities. She starts her day at 7:00 AM by greeting everyone who enters the facility at Station Road. By 8:00 AM, she is covering staff, making sure everything in the facility is organized, clean, and in working order. At 9:00 AM, she goes over meetings, schedules, billing, and administrative work for the four facilities she manages. Then, it’s back to doing rounds. Sometimes she sits in the classroom to observe or help her staff. Other times, she works one-on-one with clients.
Overcoming Adversity During COVID-19:
In the midst of the pandemic, Syndie made it her mission to keep Station Road’s doors open as other facilities around her were closing. She attributes the mass closures of other Day Hab programs to a failure to adapt in the wake of COVID restrictions. “Many companies have suffered. A lot of people don’t want to come back after COVID. I try my best with remote learning,” she said, “managers have problems with it because their staff isn’t tech-savvy, or they didn’t want to sit with the participants to explain it to them.”
But in a short time, Syndie got her team up to speed. She even took it upon herself to go out and deliver iPads and tablets for the families of WellLife participants so they could engage in virtual classroom activities. According to Syndie, “it was either that, or we closed our doors,” and closing the doors was not an option for her.
Initially, not all the families were on board. Some gave Syndie pushback. However, giving up is not in Syndie’s nature. she set out to teach families how to use the technology, going as far as making regular house visits to ensure that everyone was able to embrace this new model of service delivery.
Unfortunately, not everything can be done virtually. Prior to COVID Station Road, was heavily recreational, taking participants to museums, carnivals, buffets, and more. They have since had to cut out all trips, but they hope to bring back a few events while maintaining COVID protocols. While the world continues to adjust, Syndie keeps her ideas bubbling as she patiently waits for the day that things can go back to normal.
As I sat down to speak to Sydnie, we talked about her journey to WellLife Network. “I began in foster care prevention where I worked teaching parenting classes and mending families back together,” she said, “I was always a people person, so I’m not surprised I ended up working with people.” After working in the mental health field, she landed a position at WellLife, where she started as a Senior Medicaid Service Coordinator on Feb. 15, 2007.
Walking around the facility, Syndie reiterated the importance of making a home for the participants at Station Road. She pointed to all the bulletin boards full of photos of staff and participants that she puts up, seemingly trying to put some soul into the place. All the boards with different titles, Station Road Day Heart, Station Road at the Red Carpet, Station Road Reading Group, Station Road Day Trips, all have a story to tell. Among the bulletin boards, there are pictures with beautiful sceneries, inspirational quotes, and paintings created by past participants.
While many have left the field in recent months, Syndie continues to find new ways to make her program better. She knows that this job isn’t for everyone and noted that, “I love what I do, not for the paycheck, but for the joy of it. It’s the little things that make a difference.”
This past Tuesday, Feb 15, marked the 15-year anniversary since Syndie started at WellLife. We are so incredibly proud to have her on the team!
Our DEI Committee has been hard at work putting together new policies and work plans for our agency to be the best we can be in treating everyone in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive manner. As part of that work, they have prepared a statement for WellLife Network to share in regard to this important recognition of a big part of our country’s history.
Black history is American history. From slavery to the Civil War, to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, the collective struggles and triumphs of the black community is truly awe-inspiring. In honor of Black History Month, WellLife Network celebrates the progress that has been made in fostering a society that believes people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. But we also reflect on just how fragile this progress is, and how every inch of ground that was fought for can slip away without vigilance.
We are seeing this play out in real time. Talking about race and racism in America is becoming increasingly politicized. But this should not be a controversial or political issue. We should not try to erase the sins of our past by ignoring their existence. Instead, we should have the hard conversations that push the needle of progress forward and ensure that the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are accessible for everyone.
Democracy is indeed fragile and to grow we must understand and accept where we started as a nation and where we want to be, now and in the future. We must acknowledge that injustices exists and honor those who overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to fight for a more fair and equitable society.