Updated: Mar 21
Friendship Park is both a symbol of binational friendship and a very real platform for cross-border relationships. For generations, people of goodwill from across our community, region, and state have reunited with family and friends in Mexico at this location. DACA recipients, people here on limited visas, and many others rely on this park as the only means to see their loved ones within the parameters of the law. Recently, The Conrad Prebys Foundation joined The California Endowment and the Friends of Friendship Park in asking the Federal Government to stop construction on two new massive 30-foot-high walls and let US and Mexican design leaders complete their idea for this place of connection and community.
Grant Oliphant, CEO of the Conrad Prebys Foundation delivered these remarks at a press conference in partnership with Friends of Friendship Park and The California Endowment on Friday, March 17, 2023:
I am privileged to serve as President of The Conrad Prebys Foundation which is the largest private foundation in the greater San Diego region. As a philanthropic organization, part of our job is to stand against things that undermine the unity of our community and for the principles that define us as a community.
We believe every San Diegan deserves to feel like they belong in San Diego like they have ample opportunity and a sense of purpose.
Over the course of the last year, my team and I have engaged more than 100 organizations across this beautiful county and for that reason we know we must lean on and learn from community wisdom. We are here today to ask the Federal Government to do the same.
Time and time again, we have heard from residents that Friendship Park is an expression of belonging. We have heard that it is an expression of connection. Yes, although across a border, but with family and friends who share a region with us.
Officials promise a continuation of weekend visitation under the new plan, it is clear from the start of construction that such a promise cannot be relied upon.
This 30’ wall will visually imprison visitors, cruelly and needlessly transforming a cherished place of connection into an expression of division and disregard.
The special nature of this place is being ignored. Surely, we are better than this lack of imagination that will turn a symbol of kindness into a symbol of scorn.
It’s time we valued the local leaders – activists, artists, and civic leaders – valued the relationships, the bonds, and the bridges built between our cultures and countries.
Look at the Park, visit, meet people through the fence, and know that in a time of so much hatred and othering, this Park and this community are an expression of belonging, and it must be preserved. I ask the Administration to find another way, a better way.
Leading creative professionals in the U.S. and Mexico were already working on innovative design plans for Friendship Park that would exhibit to the world our creativity, understanding, and international cooperation. Let that process finish.
This little park and its powerful message have never felt more timely. The world aches for it.
It offers a beacon of connection, reminding us that, even as we respect our borders, we can also respect and uplift the shared humanity of the people on both sides.