President Birge's message to campus on October 30, 2018
As I read the news of violence over the last week, I cannot help but imagine the sadness and anger felt by the families who lost their loved ones at the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, and the grief and fear of those who knew and loved the two people killed at a Kroger Supermarket in Jeffersontown, KY. That these tragedies were concurrent with a series of bombs being sent to public officials associated with the Democratic Party adds to the fear and confusion of our current moment in history.
Between this violence and the increasing volume of hateful, racist, anti-Semitic, and ideological propaganda being used in the U.S. to sow fear and discord, it is easy to see that we are a nation in need of healing. Perhaps, in light of these tragedies, you have found yourself feeling angry, or lost, or hurt. Perhaps you have had a harder time studying for exams, preparing for work, or being present with your loved ones. Perhaps you are feeling angry, or afraid for your family, or for yourself. If you are unsure of who to talk with about your feelings, please do not hesitate to contact the Counseling Services Office in the MountainOne Wellness Center on campus.
There is no shame in acknowledging these fears. And there is nothing wrong in feeling differently, or having a different opinion than your peers or colleagues; we all must live our own truth. For instance, we often hear that we are a nation of immigrants. The truth is much more complex: we are a nation of people, some whose ancestors immigrated here voluntarily. We are also a nation of people whose ancestors were brought in bondage against their will. Moreover, we are a nation of people descended from those who originally inhabited this land and had it stolen from them. Our nation was founded with glorious words that hid a darker reality. Struggling with that reality has been challenging but ultimately makes us stronger. Difference enriches us and makes the world—and our country—a more interesting, vibrant, compassionate place. The United States, indeed, is built on that. We are a nation known for its perseverance and tolerance. But we are far from perfect, and our history reflects that, too.
We are also a nation that holds dear the concept of free speech—but threats and hateful words, whether violent or rhetorical, go beyond that concept. Free speech is a responsibility as much as a right; we must choose our words carefully and look hard at our well-worn beliefs and biases. We must listen to one another freely. Above all, we must hold space for one another’s dignity and dialogue.
In this spirit, I encourage you to take advantage of two important opportunities coming up: Vote on Nov. 6, because regardless of who you vote for, it is crucial to make your voice heard and participate in the national conversation; and attend MCLA’s Day of Dialogue: Complicating Race on Nov. 8, because it is imperative that we also listen and participate in our own community conversations. You can learn more about the Day of Dialogue at www.MCLA.edu/dayofdialogue. Classes are suspended on Nov. 8 so that all may listen freely, so that we all learn something new from our community members, and so we may all hold space for each other, together.
I would also like to remind you that, as always, there is no room on our campus for any kind of hateful rhetoric or action. As always, messages of hate and vitriolic actions against marginalized groups will not be tolerated at MCLA. Our community is Too Great to Hate. As we prepare to give thanks next month, let’s do as much as we can to make our world a place of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.