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First African Methodist Episcopal Church Event

Picture of Superintendent Beutner with Church Leaders LOS ANGELES (Nov. 1, 2018) – Superintendent Austin Beutner spoke at the “Tree of Life Interfaith Service" hosted by the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Temple Isaiah, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. 

Full text of his remarks:

Good evening. I would like to thank Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for the invitation to be a part of this conversation. I would also like to thank First AME Church and Temple Isaiah for bringing us together during this trying time. Together, we start the road to healing. 

Tonight, we remember and honor the men and women who died at Tree of Life Synagogue. Tonight, we remember and honor the men who died in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. Tonight, we also remembering all those who have been subjected to hate speech and violence. May their memories be a blessing.

We must challenge ourselves to understand where hate and violence begin. When people feel they can use offensive language and attack those they see as different, we all suffer. We must all stand together against hate, bullying, discrimination, and persecution – whether it happens in real life, on tv or online.

A few years ago, I had the privilege to visit with former President Shimon Peres in Israel. He spoke of the power of social media. As online connectivity grows, Peres noted that power of governments decreased. He pointed out how people had more power than ever to effect change. He went as far to say and I quote, "I think the best way to achieve peace is when the people negotiate peace directly by talking to each other." To him, social media is powerful tool to bring peace. To the shooter in Pittsburgh, social media reinforced his hateful beliefs.

Anne Frank said, “Our lives are fashioned by our choices. First we make our choices. Then our choices make us.”

The decision by the shooter in Pittsburgh to carry out an attack defined him as a person of hate.

I am here tonight representing Los Angeles Unified School Schools, which serves 700,000 students. All students are welcome in our classrooms regardless of religion, race, or nationality. We provide a safe learning environment to immigrants and never question their right to be a part of our LA Unified community. We celebrate the diversity of our students.

We do this because we understand the important role educators and education can play in helping students choose to do the right thing rather than succumbing to hate. Our teachers, principals, and employees all serve as role models to the students in our classrooms. What we do and how we handle disagreements and differences matters. We model behavior for our students, and in doing so, we are teaching students how to handle differences with respect, how to have conversations with people you disagree with, how to resolve problems, and why name calling, bullying and violence are wrong. We want our students to be defined by the choices they make to treat others with respect and tolerance.

In this time of sorrow, we are unified in solidarity for families of the victims. In this time of division, we choose to reject hate speech and violence and celebrate the all that unites us. We must work together to achieve a more tolerant society. And that is the best way we can honor the men and women who lost their lives. Thank you.