Commentary: Philly's heritage, values vital to post-election world

By John F. Smith III, board chairman of the Global Philadelphia Association, for The Inquirer, Dialy News,

First came a tumultuous national election. Now comes uncertainty.

Like many others in the international space, we at the Global Philadelphia Association have serious questions about what will happen next.

What will become of our international relationships?

What will become of the foreign-born, the immigrants and the children of immigrants, among us?

And whatever our political differences, how should we Philadelphians address these questions?

Our recently attained designation as a World Heritage City has some answers for us. More than a prestigious new status, it is a reminder that Philadelphia embodies three fundamental sets of values, values that are deeply ingrained in our identity together and that can guide us today:

Ideas. We are a city of ideas that has changed the way the world thinks about society and governing. Philadelphia has shown the way in the invention of religious tolerance, popular sovereignty, and the constitutional protection of freedoms.

Places. We are a city of places with global significance. Starting with Independence Hall, the birthplace of modern democracy, the Philadelphia region features more than 100 national historic landmarks. Many of these landmarks are in our neighborhoods and celebrate people from other countries who helped make the city what it is today.

Future. We are a city of perpetual reinvention, forever innovating and conceiving a better future. Philadelphia continues to reimagine and reinvent America, all the while honoring its historical and cultural assets.

Elections have consequences, as they say, and many dimensions of our international relationships and immigration policy will be reappraised. This may - and probably should - make us uneasy. But our values supply steady railings for dealing with the challenges ahead.

Imbued with these values, we will be open to people who worship differently than we do.

We will accept what a free and fair democratic election has yielded, whether we like the result or not. And, yes, we will also participate in the democratic processes to follow, processes that will determine exactly what will and what will not become law.

We will speak up - while observing the right of others to speak up, too.

We will honor the extraordinary past of this city and preserve its legacy. Aware that we are a truly global city and that the Constitution that was made here has served as a model for more than 100 other countries, we will not shy away from the leadership that today's world demands.

We will remember that many foreign-born persons have made significant contributions to our city - and that their successors will make still more.

And by keeping an eye on the future, by being willing to rethink and reinvent, we will create new vistas and foster the optimism that is needed for growth.

Philadelphia has always played a leading role in the development of our nation. As we deal with an inexorably more integrated and interdependent world, the city's leadership is needed more than ever. As a World Heritage City, we have the right values to do it. Let's put them to work.

John F. Smith III is board chairman of the Global Philadelphia Association. [email protected]