Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Great Tree Has Fallen

By Council Member Valerie Ervin.

Trees are an ancient symbol of life. In many parts of the world trees provide shade and shelter, nourishment from their fruit and a center for community life.

As a frequent visitor to MPW I have never posted any comments before today. I have read the very eloquent and moving recollections of Harry Sanders and his life and wanted to add my voice to so many others who are mourning the loss of this quiet giant.

Harry brought me and so many others along with him in his enthusiastic advocacy of an idea that so many thought was just a pipe dream. What I admired most about Harry was that he understood that the success of the Purple Line was connected to organizing transit riders. They are among the many thousands of people who don’t own cars and who must ride transit everyday out of necessity. Harry understood this.

Harry played an enormous role in connecting Montgomery County politicians, transit advocates, transit riders and other activists with the same folks in neighboring Prince Georges County. Building this coalition and watching it grow was an important element in the recent successes that Harry played a major role in organizing.

I learned so much from him. I learned that you must be passionate about an idea that you believe in and never let it go. I learned that true leadership is not loud or obnoxious, it is not mean or indignant, it is about building trust and community and sometimes you learn that it is the journey that is what is important.

I never got the chance to tell Harry how much I admired him. There is a poem that I love written by Maya Angelou called When Great Trees Fall. These are my favorite lines…

When great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
Thank you Harry.