HALLOWELL – Our newly elected governor represents the full breadth and diversity of our Maine communities.

That being said, he must give careful consideration to all constituents, including our children, the future leaders of our state.

All lawmakers should recognize the privilege of the powerful pulpit granted to them and consider how they can serve as role models to inspire our children to explore and participate in the highest ideals and principles of the democratic process. In doing so, they must consider the importance of civil discourse and the power of words.

The words of our governor can never be underestimated.

We are black and white, we are Native American, we are from a Franco heritage. We are Christians, Jews and Muslims, and we represent the full spectrum of diversity.

Many of us can trace our family’s journey to this state as immigrants seeking tolerance, economic stability or a distinct quality of life that is offered in our cities and countryside.

Political leaders can serve as a compass for our children, who look to the wisdom of their parents, teachers, religious and civic leaders as they negotiate their way through the social challenges of their young lives.

A governor is an important teacher to our children. What lessons do our children learn from him when they hear him suggest that the president of the United States can “go to hell”?

What example does the governor present to our youngsters when they hear him suggest that the NAACP can “kiss my butt” in reference to his refusal of an invitation to celebrate our national recognition of the principles of equal justice exemplified by the Martin Luther King holiday observance?

Ordinarily, we hope that our children are engaged in civic and current events and that they listen to their governor’s public comments.

But do we encourage them to speak to their parents, teachers, coaches and clergy with such vulgar terms and blatant disrespect? Or should we model for our children that the carefully chosen words of our elected officials can affect history, reflecting and honoring our free and democratic society?

Words are important. When Nazi thugs were breaking down the door to a religious school in Lithuania during World War II, a teacher’s last words to his students before he told them to flee was that “words have wings and they endure for eternity.”

We are indeed guided by words. The words of biblical text, the words of our Constitution and the words of our public leaders serve to establish a legal, moral and ethical code by which we live.

Words can motivate generations of people to engage in public service.

Our governor can embrace this responsibility. He can represent us all, including the most vulnerable and impressionable among us who should be able to look up to him as he serves in the highest office in our state.

Imagine for a moment that the governor is standing up in front of a classroom here in Maine. At that moment he remembers that his words have power, they have energy and they have an effect on our young listeners.

Will his words diminish, insult and find fault, or will they convey enthusiasm, self-respect and professionalism?

Will he stand before these children of Maine and use harsh words in a harsh manner or use gentle words and a gentle tone? The choice remains his.

Words do have wings. They can inspire us, they can serve as our moral guide, but they can also distort, alienate, harm and destroy.

Words can bring on devastating consequences and have done so, here in Maine, in our time. Words have fueled bigotry, intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism. Words are able to both harm and heal.

An 11th-century philosopher by the name of Solomon ibn Gabirol stated, “I can retract what I did not say, but I cannot retract what I have already said.”

Our governor should take a moment and give thought to his words. They can break our spirit and divide us, or they can heal our differences and unify us. Which will be the lesson that he will teach our children?

In the future, I urge Gov. LePage to consider the power of words and choose his speech with care. 

– Special to the Press Herald