Friday, January 15, 2021

Our Journey Toward a More Perfect Union

 

2021 has already become one of the most politically complex years in U.S. history, and we are only beginning week three.

 

Although we have witnessed unprecedented stresses to modern democracy, our republic continues to weather the stormy seas of these trying times. Last week’s assault on the Capitol was a sobering reminder of how precious democracy is. The success of that democracy is held in mutual trust by we the people. That trust will flourish if, as a people, we acknowledge how our actions impact others and collectively embrace the best ideals of what our nation can be. 

We are on an incomplete journey to create a more perfect union.

 

At a discussion I attended earlier this week led by national and state political experts, one of them said, “The problem with politics at this moment is that on both sides of the aisle, the one thing that is far more important than your cause winning is the other guy’s cause losing.” 

 

There will always be differences of perspective, and there are fundamental truths of justice that must be the backbone of democracy, but effective governing is the product of perpetual compromise built on facts.

 

There remains cause for optimism: 

  • Voter turnout in the November election included one of the highest percentages of eligible voters participating, and the highest percentage of U.S. citizens ever to vote in a national election.
  • In recent months, bipartisan efforts created COVID-relief funding of unprecedented scale for workers, families, and small businesses.

Still, we must learn all we can from recent events — as object lessons to strengthen our nation and our collective relationships to it.

 

Let us strive together to become the nation of Walt Whitman’s dreams:

 

America

 

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,

All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,

Strong, ample, fair enduring, capable, rich,

Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,

A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,

Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Bulwark of Democracy

Today I sent this message to our campus community:

Dear Friends:

 

It is with a heavy heart that I join you in responding to the tragic events we have seen unfold as terrorists deluding themselves to be patriots stormed the U.S. Capitol.

 

Our nation has been far from perfect, but its promise has been built on the rule of law and a steady progression toward an evermore inclusive democracy. Our leaders and every immigrant who becomes a citizen pledge an oath to defend the constitution. Those of us who are citizens by birth should feel the same creedal commitment to those ideals.

 

Yesterday, we saw those ideals flouted by thousands of rioters who abnegated their duties as citizens of a democratic republic to uphold its constitution and to honor the will of the electorate.

 

What is especially troubling is that many of these rioters have taken malignant actions driven not merely by corrupt dogma, but a commitment to a patently false set of “facts.” As the late Senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” [1] and yet we find ourselves at a crossroads where facts and reason are being brought into question everyday, and more and more of our neighbors are incapable of discerning the truth.

 

This is a moment when we need to recognize that many of the issues in front of us are not right and left, but right and wrong, and we must commit to do what is right.

 

The founding fathers, despite their many human frailties, designed a model of government that could evolve toward perpetual improvement, and they established liberal arts colleges to prepare citizen leaders who could cultivate that positive evolution. They also hoped those alumni would continue to develop the facilities to discern right from wrong within the thickening rhetorical fog of each successive generation.

 

That is what we strive for as a university community. Please join me in committing to the defense of the constitution in support of all citizens and to applying the gifts bestowed upon us as members of a scholarly community to help restore a well-informed populace in support of the ideals of a true democratic society.

 

Yours ever,

 

Jonathan Green

President

 

[1] In a column in the Washington Post, 18 January 1983.

 

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