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Mayoral Dream

August 21, 1988

Sometimes politicians dream.

Most often we dream before taking office that we can make a difference. The press of events quickly burnishes that naivete into cynicism, egomania and addiction to more campaigning or a desire to quit.

Still, sometimes we dream.

My dream has been for a little step toward peace, a small movement toward common understanding, and a fragile hope for a less hostile future.

That dream shaped my decision to make 1988 "The Year of the Arts" and to propose a Soviet Festival of Arts and Culture. Sure, arts is good for business, good for tourism, good for our hotels, and, on a grand scale, good for our national and international image.

But more profoundly good for us than money is the small step we might be taking toward breaking a cycle of hate.

Some speakers before the recent council hearing on the festival protested that it would be tantamount to subsidizing the "evil empire," that it would condone the "butchery" of the past, or give "credibility" to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Others complained about our usual litany of woes--sewers, drug abuse, crime, the homeless and growth. These, they argue, deserve every moment of our time.

I can only admit that I agreed, in part, with all that was said. But the larger part of me and the larger part of each council member opted for higher vision of our civic duty--a responsibility to at least try to preserve a grander, more noble vision of human nature than the opposing side has espoused.

I did not remind these speakers that the Soviet Union was our ally in World War II--that over 20 million Soviet people died fighting the Nazis; nor did I remind these speakers that 1988 is not 1938 and Gorbachev is not Stalin.

I did remind them, however, that President Reagan and the U.S. State Department have extended their hands to a government that not only preaches glasnost and perestroika but is also actively pulling its troops out of Afghanistan, moving the Cubans to pull their troops out of Angola and has begun to deal in what can only be described as a hopeful manner with its Catholics, labor unions and Jewish religious prisoners.

Can we not all dream that, through art, in peacetime and in San Diego, a small movement toward common understanding and a fragile hope for a less hostile future might actually be realized? Or must we abandon that dream and condemn ourselves and our children to the perpetual cycle of hate and violence and war and hopelessness that so threatens to engulf us all.


Mayor of San Diego

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