Dear W&J Students, Faculty and Staff,
As we approach tomorrow’s election, the presidential candidates seem to agree on but one thing: that this may be the most important election of our lifetimes. It is no surprise then that so many hopes and fears of people across our divided nation are riding on the outcome. Undoubtedly some of our friends and colleagues here at W&J will be deeply disappointed if the result is not what they desire, and it’s likely we all will experience greater anxiety if there is an extended delay before vote totals are certified.
I am writing therefore to ask that we all extend an extra measure of grace and kindness to one another in the days ahead, especially in disagreements about public issues. This is a time to model our conviction that learning requires honest dialog characterized by respectful listening – a stark contrast with the personal disparagement and winner-take-all tactics so common recently in the political arena.
Our students have set this standard for all of us by establishing the Peer-to-Peer Statement of Community Values, signed by all matriculants as a promise to “hold each other to a standard of uncommon integrity,” to “promote a culture of respect throughout the college community,” and to “promote the diversity of opinions, ideas and backgrounds of others.” This last point is especially timely, for it is a strength of W&J that a diverse range of perspectives can be found here.
I trust that our priorities this week will underscore our time-honored mission to prepare graduates for lives of leadership and service as responsible citizens. John Dewey famously said, “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” Today it may be more appropriate to say democracy must be born anew with every election, especially this one. And this is a responsibility and opportunity we all share.
Again, let’s remember to share kindness this week, mindful that we’re all feeling fatigued by the ongoing pandemic and an unusually contentious political season.
John C. Knapp, Ph.D.
President and Professor