| S.F. Values We Can All Agree With
By Gavin Newsom, SF Mayor Dec 29, 2008
Television pundits love to attack San Francisco as anti-military. And to be clear, our politicians have fueled the attacks: Some are trying to eliminate JROTC in our schools, others criticize the Blue Angels, and every so often a local politician will go on national TV to say foolish things about the role of the military.
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But, it is important to acknowledge and honor the fact that our city has a rich history of partnership with the U.S. military.
We must never forget that during the greatest natural disaster in our city’s history, the 1906 earthquake, the military helped us meet a challenge that was well beyond the resources of our emergency personnel. Soldiers not only patrolled our streets, but they fed, clothed and sheltered tens of thousands of displaced San Franciscans. When — not if — San Francisco is struck by another major earthquake, we will once again rely on the assistance of the California National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.
Do we need to be reminded that San Francisco was a critical staging area for U.S. forces in the Pacific during the 20th century? Today, we appreciate that legacy when we bike through the Presidio, attend a free concert at Fort Mason or enjoy the view of the city from Treasure Island.
It’s true that we have a foreign policy that directs our soldiers to fight a war overseas that costs us $10 billion a month. And it’s true that the military has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevents our gay and lesbian soldiers from openly serving their country. I believe that those policies are wrong and they should be changed.
But our soldiers don’t make policy. They carry out the orders of the president, and they do it with extraordinary distinction and courage. Every one of them puts their life at risk for the sake of this country — even when they themselves may not approve of the president’s policy decisions.
So it’s wrong to punish our soldiers for our disagreements with the executive branch. Telling the Blue Angels that they are not welcome to fly in our skies isn’t helpful. Banning JROTC from our schools is not the answer.
This year’s Fleet Week was a resounding success. Fleet Week events helped participants to understand the city's naval history and recognize the sacrifices made by the large number of veterans of the U.S. military who live in the Bay Area. I am proud that San Franciscans, no matter their politics, honored and respected the service of our military.
As evidence of San Francisco’s patriotism, look no further than our Veterans Day parade, where our residents crammed city streets to shake hands with members of our military, ask where they’re from, where they’re stationed, and where they’ve served.
Let the talking heads on TV bash San Francisco all they want. I believe that San Francisco continues to earn its reputation as a tolerant city, and will continue to give our men and women in uniform the warm welcome they deserve.
Mayor Gavin Newsom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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