Joint event to focus on ‘empathetic listening’
COVINGTON, Ky. - Four Kenton County cities - Erlanger, Elsmere, Independence, and Covington - are coming together for a joint celebration of the life and message of Martin Luther King Jr.
The rare collaboration - believed to be the first ever - will feature a multi-dimensional event on the national holiday itself, Jan. 20.
“The focus is on ‘empathetic listening.’ That’s the theme of the celebration,” Erlanger Mayor Jessica Fette said. “It’s important that we make sure that everybody who lives here feels welcome.”
The public is invited to the free program, which will take place from 6 p.m. to about 7 p.m. at the Erlanger City Building, 505 Commonwealth Ave., followed by light refreshments and socializing.
The program itself will include:
- Brief remarks by Mayor Fette, Elsmere Mayor Marty Lenhof, Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman, and Covington Mayor Joe Meyer.
- A video featuring interviews with a diverse group of Northern Kentuckians talking about their lives and hopes for the future.
- Keynote remarks by longtime state Sen. Gerald Neal of Louisville, who has been a strong voice for senior citizens, youth, minorities and the disadvantaged.
- A panel discussion on empathic listening with a focus on what that means on a regional level.
- Music by the 1st Baptist Church of Elsmere Male Chorus.
The mayors - who represent four of the five most populous cities in Kenton County - have recently begun engaging in periodic conversations to share ideas and concerns about municipal issues.
They said the King Day celebration is a perfect time to celebrate the fact that - despite differences of geography and size - there is much to unite the cities.
“I’m very happy that we are coming together,” Covington’s Mayor Meyer said. “Given the great diversity of this country, there are real lessons to be learned by Dr. King’s life and his experiences. And it starts with simply being able to listen to each other and trying to understand each other’s concerns.”
Elsmere Mayor Marty Lenhof echoed that sentiment.
“We are extremely excited to be a part of this important event and equally honored for the City of Elsmere to have such an active role in its creation,” Mayor Lenhof said. “On behalf of the City of Elsmere, I would like to thank the committee for its hard work and dedication for what will become a wonderful annual celebration that will honor Dr. King.”
Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman said his city was honored to participate.
“I often say that with a name like ‘Independence’ we really do understand and appreciate ‘where our independence comes from,’ ” Mayor Reinersman said. “I’ve said this when thanking veterans’ groups, and the same applies to our participation in the Martin Luther King Day event. Independence has come to our country in stages, and Dr. King’s contributions to the cause of freedom are among the greatest in our history. Independence is honored to be able to help celebrate that.”
Mayor Fette said the planning committee hoped soon to release a promotional video on social media touting the King Day event and featuring the mayors.
She said she hoped the joint event would serve as a model for further collaboration in a region that often feels fragmented.
“This is what we should be doing as a region,” Mayor Fette said. “Anytime we can join together to do something, we will have a bigger impact.”
She said that recognizing a common sense of purpose and identity was critical given the diversity of Northern Kentucky.
“I’m told that there are 26 different languages spoken by students in the Erlanger-Elsmere school system. I’m sure there are even more in Covington,” she said. “Our community is diverse whether we understand that or not.”
For questions about the event, contact Mayor Jessica Fette at email@example.com
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