January 07, 2021
Today I sent this message to our campus community:
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,”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.
In a column in theWashington Post, 18January 1983.Return to blog homepage