"The heroes of America — from Frederick Douglass, to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr. — are heroes of unity. Their calling has never been for the fainthearted. They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation — stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine. We can only see the reality of America's need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised."


These are words from a moving statement penned by former President George W. Bush and published earlier this week. Anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd, he calls on America to listen, examine our tragic failures and look for our redeeming strengths.


President Bush’s words challenge us. It is not easy to examine our failures, to acknowledge that even though our laws afford black Americans equal rights, our systems do not. We’re long overdue to remedy this injustice.


In communities across Kansas, we’re seeing the start of dialogue about race relations and the systemic failures that continue to oppress minority populations. Many law enforcement officials have joined protesters in their march for justice and vowed to listen to their needs. Attendees at peaceful protests in the state have been moved to tears by the experience of marching together for change.


The challenge comes when the outrage diminishes, when George Floyd’s murder is no longer the leading story.


Will we still work together to address systemic racism? Will we make it a priority to bring policy changes within our police departments and judicial systems? Will we call upon city, county, and state leaders to take action? Will corporate boardrooms put people of color in leadership positions and embrace their ideas?


Will the men and women elected in August and November make it a priority to pass policies brought by people of color?


What we do from here matters. It won’t be easy. Disrupting power dynamics threatens people but it must be done.


It’s time to elevate our words into meaningful action. We are all outraged by the murders of George Floyd, Armaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many others.


Now we must work for policy changes at all levels to truly foster an equal America that gives everyone a chance to live the American dream, no matter the color of their skin, neighborhood where they live, or person they love.