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Silence is not an option

In Peterborough we have the unique opportunity to be participatory decision-makers through the governmental processes of our town. For example, the annual open session of the town meeting provides a forum for all of our voices to be heard.

At town hall over the course of a year, the numerous meetings regarding all aspects of our town governance take place via the multiple committees and commissions that serve our town’s interests.

These meetings are open to the public, unless specified otherwise on the town website, and those who serve on these committees and commissions do so freely, as volunteers offering their passionate guidance and professional experience in order to see that the mission of our town is served to the best of their ability. This gives us a chance to voice our opinions, provide valuable input, and help to design the policies that determine our quality of life — across the board.

In fact the mission statement on the town website states, “The mission of Peterborough is to foster an environment in which quality services are provided in a professional, efficient, and conscientious manner, with the ultimate goal of supporting a sound quality of life for everyone whose ideas and talents make up our Community.”

It is incumbent upon as citizens to become involved in order to ensure that these expectations are met. We can’t afford to operate on the assumption that someone else will do the work that is meant for us to do as a community.

We have the unique opportunity here in Peterborough to make a difference and, if we don’t show up at town meetings, join commissions that are meaningful to us, or show up at workshops and forums for special purposes, it is only natural that important decisions, regarding the planning, community and economic development of our town will fall upon a select few and will end up, even if unintentionally, representing their interests.

While it may be difficult to find the time to become involved, if we do not see to it that our interests and ideas do become part of the public dialog, we risk losing the diversity of possibility for everyone. It is imperative that the spectrum of residents in Peterborough be represented in order to ensure that “a sound quality of life for everyone” exists.

“Social involvement allows us to enter new worlds,” as Paul Rogat Loeb says in “Soul of a Citizen — Living With Conviction in Challenging Times.” “We may build on our existing values and knowledge, but we also develop new priorities, gain new skills, meet new people, hear and heed new stories.”

Becoming involved can seem daunting. The fear of not being heard, educational differences, economic differences and being unfamiliar with the language and processes that make up our town governance can be intimidating. But what is the alternative? Loeb makes this clear when he writes, “So we stay silent in the face of common choices that we know are unwise or morally troubling. We keep our opinions to ourselves...mistrust our right to speak, or fear the consequences if we do speak out.”

However, the power of speech, and the inherent value in each individual’s opinion remain paramount in order to correctly serve the mission of a “sound quality of life for everyone.”

Andrea Cadwell of Peterborough specializes in strategy and development, program design, implementation and evaluation. She works with nonprofits and NGOs worldwide. In addition, Cadwell is a photographer and photojournalist. Her work has been shown widely throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

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