I am a third-generation son on Mattapoisett, raised in the town from birth to adulthood. I was publicly educated in the town’s schools from kindergarten to graduation from ORR in 1988 with the same values: importance of education, civic engagement, and giving back to the community. My view of Mattapoisett was seen through the eyes of the good people of this town who went out of their way to improve, enhance, and bring greater value to Mattapoisett. These people were mostly volunteers, too, but it was their actions that inspired me to continue to be a very small part of our strong community, even though I live halfway across the world.
It is true that many young adults leave town to explore the world beyond, for a variety of reasons. I, too, was one of those. Oftentimes, many who grew up here return in some way or another. In my capacity as an ORR alumnus, I have had the privilege of managing an alumni-sponsored scholarship fund since 2018 that provides a few clams to a graduating senior of ORR. Our class award, announced here in your publication, recognizes a student who has “demonstrated pride for the school community,” one who “leads from behind,” as way to “promote acceptance and inclusion.”
Anathema to these values is one of the political ads that was recently published in a previous issue of The Wanderer. Professional journalist Brad Hathaway’s paid political advertisement implored residents to vote for candidate Jodi Lynn Bauer for Selectman because “SHE IS ONE OF US.”
Since when is being a life-long resident of the town a singular qualification? Is there such a dearth of talent and experience among life-long residents that a son or daughter of the town who has made his or her way back to the town in later years is not qualified to run for the Board of Selectmen? To exclude outside experience and the contributions of non-legacy residents is to exclude every townsperson who is not a life-long resident for election to this executive-level board. I should point out to the readers of this publication that they consider that Mr. Hathaway is excluding the majority of town residents, along with a preponderance of The Wanderer’s readership. Introducing this level of divisiveness for a town election was a proxy for the political division we have witnessed on a national level. We have all witnessed what happens when these exclusionary seeds are allowed to take root and Mr. Hathaway’s message is right here in our town’s publication for all to see, if anyone was still wondering that our community was somehow immune to it.
I would like to ask the readers of The Wanderer and voters of Mattapoisett how is it that we promote these values in our schools and community, yet entertain or consider restricting access to those who wish to put those values into practice later on in life with service to our town? These two points are irreconcilable, much like opening up the bike path (once it opens) to motorists. For residents who are new to this community of whatever age or station in life, and especially to our youngsters, Mr. Hathaway’s “townies-vs-gownies” ad is a scissor-cut to the unique fabric that has always made the Mattapoisett community “special.” It represents silly, old tropes that are both anachronistic and misanthropic.
Contributing to the Mattapoisett community is not predicated on how much money you have, how old you are, if you work in town, or how long you have lived here. Inclusion and acceptance are values instilled in me by growing up here, and ones that I enthusiastically promote as a contributing alumnus of ORR. Those values must be reflected in anyone who sits on the Board of Selectmen. Otherwise, what we are promoting in our schools and churches in Mattapoisett are not actually reflected in town policy. Regardless of the results of the town election, I encourage our elected officials to reject this at once and will be watching this space to see their statements.
Those whose best interests are in the success of the town and its community and want to give back in a way that promotes these very values – whether or not they have lived away or contribute to the community from afar – are forever welcome to be a continuous part of our beloved Mattapoisett community.
Thomas Xenopoulos Peccini
President, ORR Class of 1988
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