Dear Millikin friends:
It’s difficult to find the appropriate words today to describe how I feel after watching the events from yesterday unfold.
Over the course of the last year, there had been many instances where I thought I had seen the worst of our human nature. The senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many other members of the BIPOC community, the loss of the social contract that we all have contributed to by our negligence and apathy, the mean spiritedness of the body politic as the general election was conducted in November. At each of those events, I thought that we had come to a tipping point; where individuals with decency and a reverence for the more perfect union described in the Preamble to the Constitution would step forward into the breech and help us to find our way as a nation again.
I never expected that our nation’s Capitol would be overrun by women and men who had such malice, that they were willing to commit acts of sedition and treason in order to convince the American people that the lies about the “rigging” of the election this year were true. I never expected that elected representatives, who swear an oath to defend the Constitution against “enemies, both foreign and domestic,” would be the initiators and supporters of conspiracy theories designed to attack the very lynchpin of our representative democracy – free and fair elections. I just never expected that during the worst public health crisis in the history of our country, members of Congress would spend even a moment of their legislative time listening to fantastical arguments about a “deep state stealing the election” or supporting the fantasy that 81 million people who voted for the President-elect and Vice President-elect somehow did so in an invalid or corrupt way.
In the last movement of a poem about Paul Robeson, the son of a slave who became an important figure in the fight for civil and human rights around the globe but is more well known for his acting and singing career, Gwendoline Brooks writes:
“We are each other’s harvest, we are each other’s business, we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”
In the wake of the upheaval from yesterday, my request is for each of us to take a moment to reflect on how we can live our values on campus in a way that lifts up the idea that we are each other’s business. We have differences, to be sure, but none of our differences should ever cause us to not strive for a decent and civil way to express our concerns or keep us from developing a strong sense of community.
I’ve come to realize in my short time on campus that Millikin is a more special place than I thought when I accepted the honor of being its 16th president last February. Each of you has made a positive difference in the lives of others through your commitment to providing the very best of what you have to offer to our campus. Today is a time for us to reflect on how we can better model the behavior that provides safe harbor for a diversity of ideas within a caring community.
With great respect for each of you,