Concerned Restonians: New Administration Flies in Face of Community Tenets

by Dave Emke January 19, 2017 at 2:45 pm 123 Comments

Reston Concerned Citizens Group

The morning of Nov. 9, Margot Lebow was beside herself.

“The day after the election [of President-elect Donald Trump], most of us were in the dark in fetal positions,” the longtime Reston resident said.

Lebow and friends Donna Shaffer and Susann Gerstein simply could not believe the direction the nation had turned in. So they made plans to gather at Cafe Montmartre in Lake Anne Plaza for a “hug.”

But Shaffer thought more people might be in need of a place to gather and talk. So she posted the invite on Facebook.

“We had about 45 people who showed up, and many of them we’d never seen before,” Shaffer said.

At that meeting — and a subsequent one that had an even greater turnout — teachers, children, immigrants and more were given a platform to speak and share their concerns about what the future may bring.

“That kicked off a very powerful discussion,” Gerstein said.

So was born a community activism group the women say is designed to show support for those who feel threatened — and to make sure the principles laid out by Reston founder Robert E. Simon are remembered and followed.

“The wonderful thing about this, honestly, is that it isn’t just old-time Restonians putting our arms around each other,” Gerstein said. “It’s the second and third generation in this community who really do understand what the value system was that created this community.”

Simon, who in 1961 purchased 6,750 acres that would become Reston, founded the community on seven principles — among them, that the importance and dignity of each individual be a focal point of community development.

The women who gather at Cafe Montmartre considered themselves longtime friends of Simon. They said they fear a new zeitgeist that normalizes bullying, mistreatment of others and political incorrectness will result in the “importance and dignity of each individual” being forgotten.

“In a personal sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, the morality of this coming administration is truly frightening,” Lebow said. “Everything is contrary to what we believe as a community, to what we believe as individuals.”

The women say their group isn’t rooted in politics, but rather in ensuring a proper sense of community is maintained in Reston. A separate group, Herndon-Reston Indivisible, has been founded to tackle purely political issues.

Lebow said the idea that Restonians look out for their fellow community members — no matter what race, religion or background — cannot be lost.

“That value system must persevere,” Lebow said. “That concept that is Reston needs to be expanded globally, or at least nationally.”

The women say they continue to plan the future of their group and hope to have more information about upcoming meetings soon. Their goals include continuing to support local charitable organizations including Cornerstones in their efforts.

“It’s really just about respecting people who are different than you,” Gerstein said. “In Reston, you really can put your arms around your neighbors and believe that somehow it will be all right.”

Jesse Bonfeld, Lebow’s husband, said the group understands how important it is to make sure everyone’s voices — not just the loudest — are heard.

“What really drove this was the realization that there are now people in power who have given the bully pulpit to a minority in this country whose values are diametrically opposed to what Bob Simon’s values were,” he said. “That is really the bottom line.”

Pictured: From left, Donna Shaffer, Margot Lebow, Susann Gerstein and Jesse Bonfeld meet at Cafe Montmartre in Lake Anne Plaza on Wednesday evening.

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