Since the national election a little over a week ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about a question Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked in a 1967 speech that seems just as important for us to ask today: “Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?”
The country is wrestling with that question, but so are we here on campus in this “spot in Indiana” that bleeds purple — a color made from combining partisan blue and red. That means to me that we strive here to bridge divides, avoid polarization and find the goodness in each other in the midst of difference.
And like the rest of our country, we do have profound differences on this campus: we are conservatives and liberals, Latinos and Anglos, Evangelicals and Muslims, gay and straight, people with disabilities and people without disabilities, poor and wealthy, privileged and oppressed. But, we must also not forget that, together as a community, “We are Goshen College!”
What does it mean to say “We are Goshen College!” in these times? The truth is that it means the same thing as it did on Nov. 8, before the last vote was even cast.
1. Each of us belongs here, and we are a community bound together in each other’s deepest joys and struggles. We need each other, no matter who we voted for. We must each commit anew to making this a safe and inclusive campus for all. As a community, let us assume the best of intentions in each other, as well as hold each other accountable for the impact of our words and actions.
I was thankful to read about such community when Ann Hostetler, professor of English, wrote a Record reflection last week about her post-election class conversation.
2. As a liberal arts college committed to the Christ-centered core values, we will always stand strong against bullying, hate speech, racism, sexism and oppression of any kind. We will always stand for equal rights, religious freedom, nonviolent action and care for the marginalized.
As well, we seek to make space for constructive and respectful dialogue around big ideas and around our differences.
I am thankful for students stepping up and leading a response to the convocation call for more opportunities for honest dialogue and for the Record making space this week for a range of voices that need to be heard by all of us.
3. Because we are each fully human and imperfect, we will at times fail to live up to our best selves. When we do, we are humbly called to confession and to recommitment. Please extend grace to yourself and each other when that happens.
As president, I don’t always get it right. As leaders of this great institution, we too often miss opportunities for constructive dialogue and fall short in our actions. I pledge to you that we will not tire in finding more ways to create safe settings where dialogue can happen over deep differences.
Chaos or community? Let’s always choose community because, together, “We are Goshen College!”