March Events Show Power of Unity and Community

By Vin Gopal

Our Legislative District 11 office celebrated Women’s History Month, Irish-American Heritage Month, and Greek Independence Day this month and I couldn’t help but think of how these three seemingly very different groups have something very important in common.

Each has overcome adversity by banding together to find solutions to the forces that held them down. By playing on their strengths and putting aside whatever personal differences they may have had, women, Irish-Americans and Greek-Americans overcame oppression to become important threads in a better American society.

The energy in the room as we honored eight Monmouth County women for their tremendous contributions to the community was upbeat and contagious at our Women’s History Celebration at the Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park. All month, we have been spotlighting women from our district on social media, and the community response has been so touching as people shared their experiences with our honorees. These women and their stories are inspirational and they have impacted so many lives.

We also felt that power of community when we hosted a flag-raising event in Ocean Township celebrating the 203rd Anniversary of Greece's Independence. Our Greek community is an integral part of our Monmouth County family. The ideals we celebrated on Greek Independence Day have been a beacon of light to see the unlimited worth of every person and achieve society's highest aspirations.

Greeks have made many important contributions to American culture. The democratic model of ancient Greece’s system of self-government greatly influenced how our founding fathers set out to construct the new United States government after declaring independence from England. Today, we are a country that follows the rule of law, a concept that dates back to ancient Greece and the philosopher Aristotle’s belief in natural law.

Tonight, March 28, we will host a celebration of Irish-Americans and their contributions to our communities. Historically, Irish Americans struggled to find a better life in the US, having to overcome the obstacles placed in their path in finding employment. The early Irish immigrants took on the hardest, lowest paying jobs to make better lives for their families. 

They stuck together as a community that relied on its collective strengths and they remain a strong and influential community today. We saw the joy Irish-Americans take in their heritage and their powerful sense of community during numerous events attended during the month of March. 

It was gratifying to see the ideals of unity celebrated by women, Irish-American, and Greeks, have carried over to the youth of our LD11 community during our time with the NJ YMCA State Alliance at their Day of Advocacy. The teenagers who attended came because they wanted to learn more about volunteering, voting, and being engaged in the governmental and political processes that will determine their futures.

Their enthusiasm for voting and getting involved was exciting to watch. These teens are happily stepping onto the path to becoming productive adults.

There are lessons for us as legislators and citizens to learn from all of these groups about the power of working together as we celebrate our cultures and what makes us unique. My LD11 partners, Assemblywoman Margie Donlon and Assemblywoman Luanne Peterpaul, and I take pride in building relationships with both parties in the State Legislature because bi-partisanship gets results.

Let’s all take that lesson from Aristotle, from the Irish who fought their way out of poverty, and from the local women we honored for stepping up and leading to make their communities better places for all residents.