This Monday we remember the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., honoring his tireless work toward greater equality and opportunity for all, regardless of race or economic situation – a fight that ultimately cost him his life. In addition to the national celebration of his birth that is marked on the third Monday of each January, many local institutions take the opportunity to learn more about Dr. King and the struggle he led that continues today. One of those opportunities is hosted through the Great Read program that our own Fountaindale Library is participating in; check the link for more information and ways you can participate.

We must make sure that his work toward equality continues. As we have recently seen – at even the highest levels, too many still need a better understanding of careful word choice and the impact that their ill-chosen phrasing can have on individuals as well as on our national and international relations.

In our own area, according to one recent analysis Bolingbrook was ranked #1 out of the Most Diverse Cities in Illinois, with Aurora (which is partially located in Will County) following at #10; Romeoville is at #13, Crest Hill is #17, and Joliet sneaks into the top 20 at #19. County-wide, according to the 2010 US Census, our diversity numbers correlate very closely to overall diversity in the US, with 76% of the population identifying as white, 11.2% as black or African American, 4.6% as Asian, 0.3% as Native American, 5.8% who identify as Other, and 2.3% who list two or more races. 15.6% in the county are of Hispanic or Latino origin, which is defined as an Ethnicity and not a Race by the US Census, and which is comparable to the 17.8% who self identify as such nationally.

Our county board membership somewhat mirrors our county’s race make up, with three African-American members out of twenty-six total. There is however a noticeable lack of Latino/Hispanic representation, especially as compared to our county’s population of those who identify that way. We’re on our way, but we have work to do.

I believe our diversity has contributed to our county’s march toward success.Study after study shows that, nationally and internationally, those places where there are more diverse populations, where people are encouraged to meet and exchange ideas with those of different backgrounds, where there are examples of those in leadership who look like and sound like the variety of people who make up a population (and therefore serve as role models to all) – places like Will County aspires to be – those places lead in innovation and opportunity and success for the people who embrace and participate in those environments.

Will County can be one of those places. Our geography, our resources, and our cities and towns, populated and managed by the people who live here, give us a great start. Perhaps one day we can see that dream fulfilled.

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