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Recent National Incident

Friday, January 8, 2021

Dear Members of our University Community, 

After witnessing what took place in our country over the past two days, I wish to share my thoughts as to how we, at Western New England University, could frame what took place so we can model the civil discourse and character that can help our country and academic community heal and grow.

I am appalled by the violence that took place in the United States Capitol on Wednesday. Divisiveness, false information, and even alternate realities have populated many minds, which led to the riotous and unlawful acts perpetrated in the world’s most symbolic halls of democracy.

We are at an inflection point in history. Disruptive forces have the potential to fracture what we stand for as a nation. It is the time for unity, not recklessness. We have the opportunity to uphold truth. Each and every one of us can choose to represent the best of what America is, stands for, and has to offer. As our nation faces these challenges, it is essential that we as an institution continue to be the place where civil discourse is taught, role modeled, and where character is developed. 

Higher education aids us in considering other points of view and understanding factors that may have precipitated these points of view. It is our job to engage in discovery and discourse, and to do so with civility and a sense of humanity, while focusing on what we can learn from even the most painful circumstances.

Despite the shocking and tragic events that culminated in Wednesday’s insurrection, I see and commend many instances of strength and wisdom. These are profiles in courage, and I note just some of them:

  • Courage on the part of those serving on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic—in caring for the afflicted, and in researching, creating, and deploying remedies.
  • Courage on the part of those who have peacefully marched and demonstrated for racial, social, and economic justice in cities and communities large and small across and in every corner of the nation.
  • Courage on the part of the governor and secretary of state in Georgia who certified the votes and reaffirmed that the law would not be broken.
  • Courage on the part of those who stood up for truth, who took their oaths of office and responsibilities seriously, and defended our democracy.
  • Courage on the part of members of the House and Senate who came together after an egregious disruption, got back to their work, and fulfilled their constitutional duty by certifying the election results.

It is my hope that these examples provide us the motivation and strength to use our collective best thinking, imbued with a sense of humanity, to forge a path forward. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

As educated citizens, living in a global world with a population of more than 7 billion people, we are privileged. Thus, we all have a social responsibility to leave the world better than we found it. The way we respond to hardship can deepen our passions, allow us to gain a more profound understanding of our place in a global society, and shape our legacy in positive ways. This is the essence of building character.

My clarion call to the WNE family is simple: to come together as a community of educated citizens and to continue to promote the best in all of us. It is our responsibility to contribute to a society where all people are accepted and treated equally, regardless of where they are from, what they look like, or what they believe. It is our responsibility to uphold the ideals of American exceptionalism and democracy.

We must learn from the actions of this past week. Our actions will define our character and how we will be remembered. As citizens of the world, dedicated to the ideals of American democracy, let us call on our better angels and come together in a way that positively impacts ourselves, our nation, and humanity.

With gratitude, 

Robert E. Johnson