When we started Beaux Mondes we hoped to change the negative perception people had of Hamilton. We love our city and we wanted residents, visitors and observers to see it through a different lens. We have carried on this positive project for over two years. We have met, built relationships with and shared the story of inspiring people all over the city.
It was disheartening to see negative and insulting remarks in the social sphere this weekend regarding our character and the contributions we make in this city. It's easy to make assumptions. It's easy to be negative and critical. It's challenging to keep a positive mindset and continue striving for positive change.
We believe in this city. We believe in people. We are inspired by people here everyday. We are inspired by their leadership, their community engagement, their constructive ideas, their entrepreneurial spirit, their commitment to building a better city.
This weekend I worked collaboratively with an amazing colleague to reshape the perception of Hamilton's image. We challenged people to explore what makes a successful city and to examine the defining and distinctive characteristics that Hamilton possesses. I had an opportunity to hear the stories of what Hamilton means to different people and I felt optimistic. Some viewed the project as boosterism and simply jingoistic. Some felt it represented only one voice. I believe it opened up dialogue and began a new conversation.
I believe in working towards something rather than working against it. If we are tasked with changing the perception of the city, why reinforce its negative qualities?
I come from an ordinary family. A family without privilege. A family that experienced many of the struggles Hamiltonians do today. A family that believes hard work can get you through anything. My father grew up in the north end of Hamilton. His mother had mental health issues and his father died of alcoholism when he was a child. He and his sisters experienced a tough upbringing but choose to create opportunities for themselves. My mother's family immigrated here to seek opportunity in the face of dire times in Hungary. My mother followed later at the age of 26. They learned a new language, worked multiple jobs to build a home and establish a life here. To them, Hamilton was a place of new beginnings.
My mother maintains a sense of optimism. She believes people can implement change and that action begins with a positive outlook. The negative perceptions from my father's upbringing have stayed with him. Like many others he doesn't forsee change happening in this city. He doesn't think LRT or downtown renewal or anything will save this city. To him, it's the same Hamilton from 25 years ago. But he is proud that I see it differently.
I feel lucky to have these perspectives. I feel fortunate to be able to create my own opportunities here and to chart my own path. I feel blessed to work with Jacklyn and watch her do the same. My Hamilton is full of possibility and for that I am optimistic.