On Wednesday, the world witnessed an appalling and tragic domestic terrorist attack on our Capitol and the desecration of its revered halls. At a time when our lawmakers in Washington should be fulfilling their Constitutional duties and preparing for the solemn and peaceful transition of power, a hallmark of American Democracy, violent rioters threatened their lives, intent on stalling that transition and overthrowing our government.
Iowa Wesleyan University’s Cabinet members and I strongly condemn the violence, and we call for those who committed these actions, and those who incited them, to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
For more than 170 years, Iowa Wesleyan University has taught students to value social justice, responsible action, and the release of human potential for the sake of the common good. Embedded in these values are fundamental principles of democracy, truth, and civility. Through education, we strive to help you find your voices and learn to express yourselves as members of a global community and citizens of democracy.
An utter disregard for civility was evident in the rioters’ lack of decency and their disrespect for human lives and the rule of law. It was evident in the mob’s comfortable display of nooses, confederate flags, and other symbols of racism and hatred. It has been evident throughout the past year as Covid-deniers’ refusal to exercise precautions to protect others has contributed to the loss of nearly 400,000 American lives.
You share your classrooms, performance halls, residence halls, and athletic fields with classmates from more than thirty countries around the globe. These classmates are here, in part, due to the beckoning of a free and democratic society. It has been distressing, to say the least, to consider the events and challenges of the past year and know that our international friends on campus and across the world are not seeing the best of what such a society can and should be.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
As future leaders, you will be tasked with making difficult choices in an increasingly complex world. As you prepare for that future, we know that you are learning not only from your professors in the classroom. You are also learning as you listen to the words and observe the actions of others. Over the coming days, months, and years, I hope you will continue to be guided by the pledge you have taken as IW students to be tenacious, inspired, global, engaged, and respectful. As you watch the behaviors of others, we ask you to reflect on how your own actions, responses, and choices further the ideals of a democratic and peaceful society. We invite you to take seriously the obligations and responsibilities that come with living in and actively participating in a democratic society.
Together, we have lived through a year of unrelenting challenges – challenges that have been upsetting, scary, and for some, traumatizing. The isolation, pain, and suffering have underscored the deep rifts caused by inequalities in racial justice, education, health care, and economic opportunity. Remember that Iowa Wesleyan University will always be your home away from home, that we are an open-door community, and that you are not alone. We encourage the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and we are committed to a continued focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice.
We look forward to welcoming you back to campus and furthering the conversation.