The speech Vi Lyles should give to the RNC

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY THE CHARLOTTE OB­SERVER EDITORIAL BOARD

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence came to Charlotte last week for a 2020 Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion kick­off event. The visit was a re­minder of the dis­com­fort many feel in this pro­gres­sive city about the 2020 RNC — an un­easi­ness so deep that Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said last sum­mer that she wouldn’t give a wel­com­ing speech at the con­ven­tion.

We think she should. Here’s what she could say:

As the mayor of this beau­ti­ful city, I’d like to wel­come the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion to Charlotte. We’re a South­ern city, so we know a lit­tle about how to host a party. By the time you leave, I think you’ll un­der­stand why 100 peo­ple a day de­cide that they want to stay in Charlotte a lot longer than a week.

But to­day I want to ask you a ques­tion: Why are you here?

We think there are a lot of good rea­sons. The RNC chose Charlotte be­cause we’re a grow­ing city, a vi­brant city with much to do and see. Like many cities, that growth and vi­brancy is rooted in our di­ver­sity. Charlotte is a city of dif­fer­ent faiths, dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties and, yes, dif­fer­ent ways of look­ing at life. It’s some­thing we wel­come.

Do you?

One of the things I cher­ish about Charlotte is its blend of im­mi­grants, old and new, who help our econ­omy, add to our worldview and sim­ply make this place more in­ter­est­ing. You’ll ex­pe­ri­ence that rich­ness in ways big and small dur­ing your time here, in­clud­ing where you eat. This is not just a town of meat-andthrees, but a city where de­scen­dents of Greece and the Caribbean, of Africa and South Amer­ica bring their food, work ethic and cul­ture to the rest of us.

But these days, your party and your pres­i­dent don’t seem very in­ter­ested in those con­tri­bu­tions. The GOP’s poli­cies, in­clud­ing those in­volv­ing le­gal im­mi­grants, seek to ex­clude many of the peo­ple we em­brace and value as neigh­bors.

Sim­i­larly, your party and your pres­i­dent have ad­vo­cated for poli­cies and laws that would treat mem­bers of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity as some­thing lesser. In our city, they are not only wel­come, but vi­tal, and we be­lieve they should be pro­tected from the pain of pub­lic dis­crim­i­na­tion.

So I ask again: Why are you here?

You could have gone to one of the many lovely ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties that share Repub­li­can val­ues, but you didn’t. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that our light rail line makes Charlotte pretty easy to nav­i­gate for a big city, or that our green­ways and green space of­fer dif­fer­ent ways to en­joy Charlotte’s beauty. We be­lieve that to do great things, you need pub­lic in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and in­dus­try and, crit­i­cally, in ed­u­ca­tion. I’m pleased to say that many cor­po­rate CEOs who call Charlotte home agree with those prin­ci­ples. It’s pos­si­ble to be both pro-busi­ness and pro-peo­ple.

Make no mis­take, Charlotte is far from a per­fect city. We strug­gle with crime, with in­equity in schools and un­even eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity. But we strive to un­der­stand the roots of our flaws, and we want to take on the hard work to cor­rect them. Most im­por­tantly, we be­lieve that ev­ery­one has a role in do­ing so, and that ev­ery­one ben­e­fits.

I know many of you here to­day might feel dif­fer­ently, and that’s OK. If you ever have the plea­sure of at­tend­ing one of our City Coun­cil meet­ings, you’d see that our di­verse voices of­ten don’t agree. We’re a city that grap­ples with where we’ve been and where we’re go­ing. But we know we don’t want to go back­ward, and we don’t fear all the col­ors of change.

So ask your­self: Why are you here, this week, in Charlotte? The food, the cul­ture, the en­ergy — so many of the things you find ap­peal­ing about our city are rooted in the peo­ple and prin­ci­ples you fight against. I don’t ex­pect a week here to change your mind, but I hope that as we wel­come you to our city, you can wel­come us, too. Our fu­ture, to­gether, will be bet­ter for it.

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