WOOSTER, Ohio – With a captivating speech by president Sarah Bolton, an invocation courtesy of chaplain Alex Serna-Wallender, and scores of students, faculty, and staff in attendance, The College of Wooster made its presence felt at downtown’s CommUNITY Rally on Sunday evening.
“Hate has no home here” was the theme, a unifying, non-partisan message in response to Ku Klux Klan recruiting fliers that have recently been found in the Wooster area.
Bolton took center stage at the gazebo in Wooster’s Public Square, following remarks from the president of the Wooster/Orrville NAACP, the chairwoman of the Wayne County Democratic Party, and the chairman of the Wayne County Republican Party.
She reminded the hundreds in the crowd that the “freedoms we are trying to uphold are the same ones that people talked about all the way back in the second World War.” Citing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech – freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear – she said, “Every member of our community deserves those freedoms and we have to come together to assure that every member of our community has them.”
Bolton noted that every year “a whole lot of new people arrive (here),” whether it’s to attend college like this year’s first-year class at Wooster, the most diverse in the College’s history, or as part of an international exchange program or to work locally, so it is especially important to remain a welcoming community.
Bolton closed with a couple of suggestions – stand up and be an ally and stand up together. Specifically, she encouraged those in attendance “to pay attention to who’s most vulnerable, to who is targeted,” and when somebody is afraid, ask “How can I help you?, What do you need?,” instead of “don’t worry … you’ll be fine and assuming they’ll be OK.”
And in reference to her second suggestion, Sunday’s CommUNITY Rally was a good start. No matter one’s background, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or religious belief, “stand together for what is most important,” she said while later adding “what unites us is far, far greater than what divides us, and in that unity stands our strength as a community to move forward.”
Serna-Wallender began the proceedings. He contributed “our common bond and our highest calling is that of love, to love our neighbors as ourselves” and that “a place of unity … transcends ideologies that often keep us divided, and that in this way we might stand together.” A prayer followed.
The College of Wooster, the Wooster Area Interfaith Partnership, Indivisible Wooster, and Concerned Citizens of Wayne County were among the organizations that planned the CommUNITY Rally.