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Dear Editor,

Prior to getting involved in trying to help our neighborhoods on the southwest side, the majority of my life was focused on academics and martial arts. I led a low-profile life and that had always been my preference. Back then, if my name periodically found its way into the news, it was in relation to Taekwondo.

Screenshot from interview video, courtesy of Tom Kilian. Click to see the full video, also posted below.

Taekwondo was a passion and education that began for me when I was six years old. It was to continue for nearly twenty years until injuries curbed my participation in the physical aspect – however, along with what I learned from my school teachers and family, it had a become a permanent and profound influence on my views in life and civics.

Taekwondo guided my belief that our people deserve to be treated with respect and protected. Equally important, it taught me that we must never give up, no matter how formidable the things we face, or how challenging the path becomes.

I am taking this opportunity to convey this information now, because without knowing this part of my background, it would be virtually impossible to understand my involvement in matters in the Thomas Street neighborhood, or the duration for which they have taken place.

As a small child, I would attend Taekwondo class almost daily. In the early 1980s, the instruction was still very traditional and similar to the military:  discipline, commitment, and conduct were of paramount importance. At the start of each class, I would recite the five tenets of Taekwondo (ITF):  courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. I would also recite the oath, including that “I would be a champion of freedom and justice and help to build a more peaceful world.”

Particularly because I was so young, these tenets and this oath became ingrained in me. They were rules that were to be honored and followed. They continue to occupy a central space in my heart and mind to this day.

Other principles from my martial arts training that informed my view on life and civics are vast, so I will focus on three that appear especially relevant to municipal civics and governance today.

  1. It was a serious infraction for students of a higher rank or of a greater physical capacity to use full force when sparring with others in class. Using full force was using excessive force, in this context, and causing harm to those who were more vulnerable could not have been more against the tenets and spirit of Taekwondo. Restraint and kindness were always to be shown, along with humility and a sense of camaraderie.
  2. When you can, always help those in need of assistance.
  3. Respect your elders.
I believe these are important guidelines for our government to incorporate into its interaction with local residents. It should govern through kindness and assistance. It should treat its people with respect. And when its people are in a vulnerable situation and facing more powerful forces – whether corporate or governmental – it must come to their aid and defend them. The welfare and rights of our elders must be safeguarded, and that means that government should never cause them to face indignities and risks, such as being unnecessarily displaced from their longtime homes in the course of questionable projects.

I am hopeful that these principles can find their way into our governance. I am optimistic that, together, we can be “a champion of freedom and justice.”

Tom Kilian

Tom Kilian is a candidate for alderperson for Wausau City Council’s District 3.

Tom at Nine Years Old from Tom Kilian on Vimeo.