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Can a City Be Compassionate?

Mayor Greg Fischer is serious about making Louisville a kinder place in an increasingly angry nation.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in 2016.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in 2016. John Sommers II/Reuters

Greg Fischer, the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, has garnered national attention for his pledge to make Louisville a “compassionate city.” The campaign dates back to 2011, and while it may seem like a lofty or nebulous goal, the program involves a series of practical efforts to work compassion into every aspect of the city’s design. Louisville has worked with the University of Virginia to institute the Compassionate Schools Project, an $11 billion initiative that introduces a curriculum focused on health, mindfulness, and welfare into 25 elementary schools. The city also encourages residents to take compassion into their own hands: Over 180,000 people participated in the city’s most recent Give a Day week of service, and residents join clusters to discuss issues like healthcare and education under an umbrella organization called Compassion Louisville.

On Monday, as the nation’s mayors grappled with the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday, CityLab spoke to the mayor about the meaning of removing Confederate monuments, why Louisville isn’t a sanctuary city, and how to thread compassion into urban America.