History of Lakewood's city motto

Published on January 24, 2022

Lakewood city motto on sign

Times Change. Values Don’t. The Lakewood motto adorns dozens of monument signs at the entrances to the city. 

Although some think that this motto dates back to the city’s incorporation in the 1950s, the motto actually was coined in 2003 when Lakewood was approaching its 50th anniversary. At that time, city leaders wanted to update the city’s original slogan of “Tomorrow’s City Today.” That moniker dated back to the 1950s when Lakewood was America’s largest planned community—with a design that truly embodied the future of America’s suburban cities. But 50 years later, in 2003, “Tomorrow’s City Today” seemed antiquated.

So Lakewood city officials set about crafting a new motto or values statement. City staff worked with communications consultants and generated the phrase “Times Change. Values Don’t.,” which was presented to and approved by the Lakewood City Council. The motto was unveiled to Lakewood residents and broadly welcomed during the 50th anniversary year in 2004 as a reflection of the community’s civic pride and unity.

At the time, the description of the motto spoke of timeless community values that were central to Lakewood’s identity and widely recognized and appreciated, including:

• Well-maintained streets, trees and public infrastructure.

• Beautiful neighborhood parks.

• Recreation for all.

• Volunteerism by residents and businesses.

• Public safety. 

Importantly, and with great relevance today, diversity and tolerance were also listed as essential Lakewood community values in 2004. They were included because Lakewood was becoming one of the most diverse cities in California, and city leaders wanted to acknowledge, embrace and celebrate that, as continues to be the case today.

Students of history may raise their eyebrows a bit at the inclusion of “diversity and tolerance,” because when Lakewood homes were first built and sold in the early 1950s, racial and ethnic diversity and tolerance were not embraced or celebrated in most of America’s suburban communities, including in the area that would later become the City of Lakewood.

Racial discrimination in housing policies and realtor practices in the decades leading up to the 1950s was prevalent throughout society at large and prevented people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds from buying homes in hundreds of suburbs throughout the nation and Southern California, including Long Beach, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena and, sadly, Lakewood too.

Discrimination also existed in employment, transportation, dining, hotels and other aspects of life in those years. This is not to suggest that it pervaded every aspect of society and everyone everywhere, but it is certainly a sorrowful part of America’s history. Thankfully though, through the struggle of countless Americans, laws were passed to combat that discrimination and bring about more racial equality in our nation. It doesn’t mean that discrimination no longer exists or that it never rears its head, but fortunately there are laws and enforcement agencies in place now to help prevent it and punish those who engage in it.

These changes to the law have had a profound positive effect in Lakewood over time. Census data show a growing racial diversification in the city over the decades. 

Data from 2018 show that Lakewood’s ethnic diversity now closely mirrors the diversity of Los Angeles County as a whole, which is one of the most diverse counties in the nation.

For example, Lakewood now has the same percentage of African-American residents (7%) as the county as a whole, and a similar level of diversity with Asian-American residents (17% of Lakewood, 13% in L.A. County as a whole), Hispanic residents (33% of Lakewood, 48% in L.A. County) and White non-Hispanic residents (36% of Lakewood, 26% in L.A. County). A leading California research organization has called Lakewood one of California’s most broadly diversifying communities. For quite some time now, racial diversity has been part of the strength and beauty of Lakewood as a community.

All of that said, the killing of George Floyd in 2020 was a shocking reminder that more needs to be done to address racial equity issues throughout our nation. In response and because of the pride that Lakewood takes in its notable diversity, the Lakewood City Council created a Community Dialogue in 2020 for residents to discuss and act on issues related to race, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Based on the feedback from residents, the City Council in 2021 approved a 10-point Action Plan to build on all the good that exists in Lakewood and to make the city the safest and most welcoming place it can be, for everyone. 

Actions already carried out include the creation of Lakewood’s first-ever multicultural food and music festival (the Fest-Of-All) that 10,000 residents and guests attended in October 2021. 

Calendar days and months are now commemorated to celebrate the diversity of Lakewood’s residents. Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are among the commemorations that Lakewood honored this past year and will continue to recognize in the future.

More programs and actions inspired by the Community Dialogue will be carried out in the year ahead.

See the plan at www.lakewoodcity.org/CommunityDialogue.  

So, the next time you see the city motto “Times Changes. Value’s Don’t.” you’ll know the positive community values that Lakewood had in mind on the city’s 50th anniversary in 2004…and the values that Lakewood still treasures today.

Lakewood is an exceptional community, which in many ways is defined both by its diversity but also a common set of core values that are widely recognized and appreciated, at the center of which is the endeavor to make it the best community it can be for all its residents, no matter their background.  

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