PORT ANGELES — Hope and hugs abounded in Port Angeles on Saturday.
A crowd of well over 200 marched from Veterans Memorial Park to the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center to forge common ground in a show of solidarity called a Gathering for Hope.
Conceived by physicians Drs. Ned Hammar and Lissa Lubinski, the event was meant to bridge divides that widened during the 2016 presidential election.
“Last year’s election exposed fissures of race, class and worldview that threatened to tear us apart,” Janis Burger, an event organizer, told the assembled crowd at Veterans Memorial Park.
“It was a contentious, divisive year, long on accusations and slogans but short on discussion and coming together, long on fear and short of hope.
“This gathering was born of folks wanting to come together, to move beyond divisions, to come back to the faces and lives of our neighbors at the community level,” Burger added.
The Interfaith Community of Clallam County Peace Choir sang “I Am One Voice” as the crowd spilled onto the sidewalks of South Lincoln and East First streets.
The crowd marched peacefully without political signs behind a banner that read: “We are all in it together.”
At the heritage center, Hammar directed the standing-room-only crowd to take deep breaths and to hug those in their immediate vicinity.
A Lower Elwha Klallam tribal drum group performed “The Journey Song” to a rousing ovation.
Hammar proposed that “we were all winners” in the presidential election.
“If you voted to elect the first female president in U.S. history, you won the popular election by over 2.8 million votes,” Hammar said.
“If you voted for a man promising to bring an outside perspective to the nation’s capital, you got the man you want.”
For those who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, Hammar added, “You might take heart in the fact that the candidate who addressed inequality most directly won more primary votes among those under age 30, our voting future, than the two eventual nominees combined.”
Attendees were encouraged to share their hopes for the community in 100 words or less.
“My hope is for my daughters’ future, Sophie and Tess,” said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Port Angeles native. Now living in Gig Harbor, the Democrat represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
His hope, he said, is “that they can get a top-notch education, that if they want to go to college that they’re empowered to pursue that dream without ending up deep in debt, that when they’re old enough to work, our economy works for them.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].