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  • Writer's pictureTommy Zurhellen

We Choose Kindness Over Fear

Monday, May 22nd

Dear Friends:

How do you win an election in America? For our opponents, the playbook has always been very simple: make voters afraid. It’s an old strategy, but even today fear-mongering can be very effective. We see that strategy in full force across our nation right now, with books being banned because of their content, kids being ostracized due to their identity, and immigrants being demonized merely because they seek a better life. And this week we’re seeing it up close and personal in Dutchess County, as our current county executive responded to the potential influx of migrant families from New York City by immediately declaring a state of emergency – incredibly, even before any of these migrants set foot in our county. If that’s not fear-mongering, I don’t know what is. The official statement listed the “safety” of our residents as a primary reason for declaring an emergency here at home.

Safety from what, exactly?

My good friend Yvette Valdés Smith is our Minority Leader in the Dutchess Legislature and she quickly condemned these actions in a profound statement. “As a nation of immigrants, it is un-American to issue such orders,” Yvette wrote. “Contrary to protecting county residents, these orders create xenophobic misconceptions and may lead to dangerous situations for residents and migrants where they do not presently exist. The lack of true leadership in this administration endangers constituents by not being level-headed about dealing with potential issues in this case.”

I couldn’t agree with you more, Yvette. As a community, we’re better than this. The migrants are the ones who are scared. The Dutchess County I know will always rise to help our neighbors in need, not shun them. We have plenty of things to be afraid of – food insecurity for our kids, rising housing costs for our seniors, benefit cuts for our veterans – but we’re certainly not afraid of families who need our help.

With this latest debacle, the choice in November has now become crystal clear: we can choose kindness, or we can choose fear. Yes, it’s that simple. For the record, I will always lead with kindness as your Dutchess County Executive. I will never use fear. And I certainly won’t declare a state of emergency unless we are faced with an actual emergency.

People close to me know my grandmother was a huge influence on me growing up. Whenever I was short or cross with someone, she would take me aside and gently say, “Kindness doesn’t cost extra.” Now that I’m older, I realize what she was trying to teach me: always lead with kindness. She taught me that our first reaction to any situation should always be kindness. Why? Because kindness opens doors, while fear always closes them.

The Dutchess County I know will always choose kindness over fear. We will always lead with love instead of cruelty. That’s who we are. I see it every single day in Dutchess County, and I know you do, too. I see people in line at the grocery store who help the stranger in front of them. I see churches that open their doors to families who desperately need shelter from the storm. And I see courageous social workers, teachers, nurses, caregivers, law enforcement, and first responders who meet countless strangers every day and use kindness as their first instinct. We are Dutchess County. We are people whose first question is always, “How can I help?”

It’s just like my grandmother said, all those years ago. Kindness really doesn’t cost extra.

I truly believe this election will be won by the people who lead with kindness over the folks who always try to spread fear. I hope you will join our mission to always lead with kindness and share our message of hope and inclusion with all our county residents. We need your help! Please consider a donation in any amount to our campaign using the secure Act Blue link below, or consider your time and energy at one of our upcoming Team Tommy events all over Dutchess County.

Thank you, Yvette, for helping us respond to fear-mongering with a true sense of community and kindness. And thank you, for listening! See you next time!

Respectfully, Tommy


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