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Secular invocation: Perry Mitchell

Perry Mitchell

DeKalb (Ga.) Board of

April 9, 2019

Good morning, commissioners and all of you. I’m Perry Mitchell and, as you can see from today’s agenda, I’m an atheist. 

I’m also a native Atlantan — old enough to be born a couple of miles from here at Emory Hospital, way back when they still had a maternity ward. I’ve owned my home in DeKalb for 49 years and I’ve been involved in a number of neighborhood groups, so I clearly love living in DeKalb.

I want to thank Presiding Officer Jeff Rader and his staff for putting out such a welcoming call for diverse 2019 “Inspirational” speakers. And although I can’t speak for all the thousands of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secularists and humanists who live and work alongside you in DeKalb County, I believe the board and all of you should hear an atheist’s viewpoint – especially since you so much more often hear a religious perspective. 

In fact, I believe I’m the first atheist to ever offer these opening remarks — and I hope you’ll hear from more of us — because for DeKalb County to be the kind of progressive, accepting county it needs to be, as many different citizens’ voices as possible must be heard.

Commissioner Rader’s chief of staff wrote that all “Inspirational” speakers’ remarks should be “positive and uplifting,” and I’m happy to follow those guidelines, because I sincerely thank all the members of this current board for the smart, dedicated hard work they’re doing for us. 

This board, along with CEO Michael Thurmond, have, in a short time, turned not only the operation but the reputation of DeKalb County around. Sure, there are lots of improvements that still need to be made, but does anyone here doubt that the county is now headed in a much more efficient, forward-looking direction?

I give credit for this huge turnaround to these folks sitting up there — and to all of you here today. You’re the kind of concerned citizens who disrupt your normal Tuesday morning schedules to be here. Without you giving your direct, personal input to our commissioners, how would they know how to best channel their efforts? 

I want to encourage our commissioners to keep their heads held high, knowing they are putting DeKalb on a much more transparent course, a course of doing the hard work of really listening to the many diverse viewpoints of our citizens. 

Every day that you commissioners come to your office or attend another neighborhood meeting or spend hours in your committees hammering out the nitty-gritty details of sanitation upgrades, library budgets and public safety issues, in all of your official actions, I urge you to keep one attitude at the forefront: How can you do what’s best? Not what’s easiest, not what’s politically expedient, but what is, in your most honest belief, the very best course of action for all of DeKalb County.

In my opinion as an atheist, I don’t see the need for anyone to stand up here and call on a supernatural power to grant you that capability, because clearly you already have it. 

Day after day, you’ve been demonstrating your innate willingness and ability to act in the county’s best interests, and I’m confident that in the future you’ll continue to show that same commitment for every DeKalb citizen.

Thanks to all of you for listening.

Perry Mitchell is retired from a career in advertising as a writer/creative director/ad agency partner and currently volunteers for several organizations. He and his wife Pam Woodley are both FFRF Lifetime Members.

Perry Mitchell