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11th Annual Orange County Human Rights Commission Awards Dinner

Inn at Central Valley, April 26, 2006

By Jeff Berkman

I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the Orange County Legislature today at the Annual Human Rights Dinner.

Mr. Lahey asked me to stand in his shoes due to a prior commitment.

When I think about what is important when considering the roles of a legislator:  respect for our constituents must be  a

paramount consideration.  This means that all government officials

must commit and re-commit themselves to principles of fair

treatment for all.

President George Washington, when communicating with

American Jewish leaders in Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, set the standard for our nation in 1790:

"To bigotry, no sanction.
To persecution, no assistance."

     Interestingly, Touro Synagogue later was a stop in the Underground Railroad where the next generation of heroes took risks in the defense and furtherance of liberty. 

     Closer to home, here in Orange County, the purpose of tonight is to reinforce shared values of respect for all people of our diversified communities and to say THANK YOU to this year's selected group of individuals deemed to have provided leadership, support,  guidance and assistance in efforts to promote brotherhood, equality of citizenship, equality under our laws and fair government.

We appreciate your efforts and the examples your behavior exhibits to our communities.

We, as a county, and you as a Human Rights Commission     must not remain satisfied with fighting the conventional forms of bias, and easily understood examples of injustice.  We must commit to expand our vigilance against  hate, intolerance and prejudice.

I am concerned with recurring incidences of hostile language and  action against many of our county's religious and ethnic minorities.

We must persevere in our efforts to protect innocent people from negative stereotyping of segments of communities from Newburgh, to KJ to Pine Island or wherever.

Just as President George Washington built the foundation of tolerance and respect, the Orange County Human Rights Commission and the Orange County Government must build upon recent achievements as expressed in last year's summit and expand our concern and system of support for all of our citizens regardless of race, ethnicity,  religious identification or sexual orientation.

"To bigotry, no sanction.
To persecution, no assistance."

Again, congratulations to tonight's honorees.


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