What Crossing the Mexican Border Taught Me About Inclusion

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In response to the tragic events in Charlottesville, the National League of Cities is celebrating #InclusionWeek to support diversity, inclusivity, and hope in America’s cities. This is a guest post by Councilmember Fabian Bedne of Nashville, Tennessee.

When I first came to Nashville, I found a city that was welcoming, kind, and full of potential.

My journey had brought me from Buenos Aires to Ohio to Tennessee, but the city I now call home welcomed my wife and me with open arms.

Today, I’m proud of how that journey shaped me — and how my community continues to welcome those in search of a home.

That’s why, last Friday, I joined dozens of other Hispanic city leaders to gather in Tempe, Ariz. — and cross the border into Mexico, for a diplomatic trip to meet other city leaders abroad.

Hosted by the National League of Cities’ Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO) network, this annual summit convened Hispanic mayors, city councilmembers, and city managers to share new ideas and leadership strategies.

HELO has existed since 1976 to connect and support Hispanic local leaders all over the country. But this year, our shifting national political landscape has made our work together feel especially urgent.

In Tempe, we discussed the major challenges facing city leaders, like proposed federal cuts to crucial local programs or the uncertain future of healthcare access.

We also worked together to find a road forward on immigration — one that respects the dignity of all people and helps our cities continue to welcome and protect new residents.

In a time when our national leaders carelessly criticize even our closest allies, we believe in the power of showing goodwill and reinforcing our nation’s longstanding allegiances.

We also recognize Mexico’s potential for building economic opportunity — and its cultural influence on our own community.

Above all, our aim for this experience was to build more than just any single leader-to-leader relationship.

For our cities in America and Mexico are already linked inextricably — through our culture, our commerce, our history, and our common humanity. My colleagues and I are be proud, as city leaders and as Americans, to continue that tradition.

This article was originally published in the Tennessean. It is reproduced here with permission.

Fabian BedneFabian Bedne is the Metro Nashville-Davidson County Council member for District 31. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bedne studied architecture at the University of Buenos Aires, graduating in 1983. He moved to the United States in the 1990s as part of the Columbus (Ohio) Area International Program, and later became a citizen — taking his oath at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville.