Leroy Sullivan

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Leroy Sullivan has been the mayor of Donaldsonville, Louisiana, since March 2004. Prior to serving as mayor, Leroy worked at a local chemical plant and was burned over 50 percent of his body in an explosion at the plant. He spent 37 days in a burn unit. Donaldsonville has a population of 7,436, but he says its residents experience the same struggles as larger cities: poverty, drug abuse, violence, and murder.

“If we just dare to help one another, to love one another, to treat one another with the utmost respect, this world, this country would be a better place to live.”

When I was a young boy growing up in Donaldsonville, if I did something wrong, the neighbors were there to correct me. Let’s say I walk into the neighborhood store. Every time I passed by an elderly person, I had to speak. Don’t matter if I passed them ten times. I was going to speak. And if you didn’t speak, you know your parents are going to find out about it. You speak going, you speak coming back. We grew up respecting those in the community.

You don’t have that now. A lot of the young people don’t respect their parents. They don’t respect their teachers. They don’t respect me as the mayor. That’s what we have to work on. You won’t have true peace until we take back control of this nation. And the only way that you’re going to do that is by letting people know love. Sometimes it’s tough love. If you don’t do what I tell you to do, there are consequences. Because if not now, eventually, when they’re old enough, they’re behind bars.

Yes, we say, if I had more money, if I had a better job, if I had this, if I had that, but what are we doing with what we have?

Leroy Sullivan short audio clip

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Setting up for Leroy’s portrait.

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A street of historic homes in Donaldsonville, Louisiana.

Leroy Sullivan full audio 

Discussion Questions

  • Leroy talks about talking with and respecting his elders. How do you show respect to your elders?
  • What similarities does you community have to Donaldsonville as you imagine it?
  • How are peace and respect related? Can you have one without the other?
  • What values do you hold dearly? What values do you want to pass on to future generations?
  • What do you wish you had but don’t have now? What would life be like if you never got it? What do you have now that you couldn’t live without?

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