It was more than just a beautiful day, although the weather itself was lovely.
On February 12 at the Bankhead Theater plaza, something special was happening. There was joy in the air - a rare confluence of positive, open energies that create magic all its own. It was Livermore's first-ever Rally For Love.
"Livermore is a city that was named after Robert Livermore, a man known for his generosity and hospitality. That spirit continues in our DNA," said Mayor John Marchand addressing the roughly 500 attendees. "People talk about diversity.
He added, "When the organizers first approached me about holding a Rally for Love, I told them that my concern was that this not simply be a gesture, a single effort at a single point in time. This is about creating a mindset around community service and keeping Livermore a great place to live.
"People talk about diversity. In Livermore, we live it. When we gather together, let us reaffirm our commitment, re-dedicate ourselves, refocus our energies on community service and remember the words of Rabindranath Tagore. 'I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.'"
In her talk, Catharine Baker quoted Lincoln, who said that we should put our feet in the right place and stand firm. He was also open to reconciliation. She pointed out that the statue of him shows one hand in a fist and another open.
The rally was organized by the Embracing Diversity Interfaith Group at Asbury United Methodist Church.
Shana Peete, an Embracing Diversity member and rally organizer and emcee, declared, "It was inspired by a conversation among the group exploring issues of race and faith when we realized that there was a common desire to let people who may feel vulnerable or spotlighted know that they are supported, valued and loved."
She added after the rally, that the atmosphere of the rally today was sunny, warm and friendly. "There was a palpable energy among attendees that made it seem people were ready and willing to roll up their sleeves to find ways to use their time, dollars and talents to support organizations that make our Tri-Valley better."
The program featured the national anthem sung by Olivia Howe, music from Element 116 and Music for Change, dancing by the Livermore American Indian Center, and a host of speakers that included Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, Rev. Kim Risedorph, Edward Mora (a representative for Congressman Eric Swalwell), and Holocaust survivor Ruth Gasten.
Gasten told the crowd, "I have the dubious distinction of entering the world scene the same year as Adolph Hitler; he became Chancellor of Germany, and I was born in a tiny German village. My parents and I lived in a little cluster of farm houses. As a small child I wandered from house to house, totally free. The front doors were open. I might help shell peas, sit next to a grandmother who was knitting and have her tell me a story, or romp with the family dog.
"One day the doors were closed. My mother told me it was because I was Jewish, and Hitler had issued an edict that Christians were not to socialize with Jews. I was confused and sad.
"But not everyone was intimidated. Soon the heavy winter snow started falling, and one evening we heard a knock on our door. Our neighbor Anna stood there with her sled. 'Since the Nazis keep me from taking Ruthie sledding in the afternoon, let’s go out now when no one is watching,' she said. For the next two years we went sledding in the moonlight.
"Fast forward to today. Like Anna, we are not intimidated. In the Tri Valley, we aren’t shutting our doors on vulnerable people. We are having a rally to say we honor diversity and support you. I am happy to be a part of it."
The rally included people of all ages and ethnicities, many carrying signs that read: Make America Kind Again, Love Trumps Hate, Diversity is a Strength Not a Weakness, and Welcome Refugees.
Alan Marling, holding a sign that read No Ban, No Wall, said, "I hope attendees know that they don't face the dangers of oppression alone. An older gentleman told me he had immigrated from Iran 40 years ago. He was delighted to see the rally. He told us we had his support."
Volunteer Val Pace echoed the sense of inclusiveness. "My favorite memory was when I realized three women standing beside me were wearing hijabs - beautiful Muslim scarves of many colors. I am a Christian, and as we held hands, they thanked me and I thanked them for coming. It was a special moment for me."
More than 20 booths of nonprofits lined the Bankhead's bricked walkways, including one hosted by Michael De Sousa.
"We wanted to celebrate the reality that most people who reside in the U.S. came from somewhere else," said De Sousa. "For many people, these immigration stories inform our relationship to this country and our ancestry. We asked people to share their stories on colorful quarter sheets that we displayed by attaching them to a network of brightly colored twine to represent our interconnectedness to each other. Our diversity makes use strong."
"My grandfather emigrated from Russia, fleeing the pogroms," wrote one attendee. "We've seen this before. Not here. Not now."
"My parents immigrated from Taiwan, and they helped start a company in the Bay Area that's now employing over 300 people in the U.S." wrote another.
"My parents came here from India in 1971 in search of a better life for their children. We're blessed to be part of a country that embraces diversity and supports it," wrote a third.
In all, 104 people shared their stories.
At another booth Mollie Jensen, founder of Ur SAFE with Me, handed out silver-toned, brass safety pins with hearts bearing the word SAFE. Wearing safety pins has become an international symbol to alert others that they will be safe in the wearer's company.
"The idea came to me about a week after the presidential election. I was deeply troubled by the surge in hate crimes and wanted to create a way to show that there are more of us in the world who will stand up for one another than who choose to do harm," said Jensen. "At the rally, there was such a beautiful spirit of inclusiveness and kindness from everyone I met. I think it should be an annual event!"
Embracing Diversity's ongoing mission is to promote and celebrate diversity in Tri-Valley communities, and to honor the human and civil rights of all persons irrespective of age, race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, or economic status. The peaceful, non-partisan rally accomplished its goal of honoring diversity and demonstrating solidarity with those who feel vulnerable.
"The atmosphere was exactly as we hoped," said Richard Hayes, the organizing committee coordinator. "It was very positive, family friendly, and with good energy and reactions from the crowd."
To learn more, visit "Rally For Love –Tri-Valley" or "Embracing Diversity—Tri-Valley" on Facebook.