I respect … the dignity, rights, and property of others and their right to hold and express disparate beliefs.
Our Miami community is embedded in a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all (men) are created equal,” as Lincoln said, referring to the Declaration of Independence. Our national motto is “E pluribus unum” – from many, one. American history can be understood in one sense as an effort to make that assertion of human equality a reality for more and more people and groups, despite many failures and false starts. That goal of recognizing full human equality is fundamental to all of our activities on our campuses.
Recognizing our equality with others – and their equality with us – empowers us to practice the respect that this Code requires. The list of what we respect is comprehensive, from physical property to political opinions. Their dignity is no less than mine. Their rights are as non-negotiable as mine. Their property is theirs just as mine is mine. They have as much right to share their beliefs and opinions as I do. This inclusive excellence begins with empathy and finds its fulfillment in union.
All of this means that equality is far from a glib abstraction or content-free platitude. Rather, human equality is the organizing principle of authentic human society, whether the United States or the Miami University community. It resists discrimination, exclusion, bigotry, and the oppressive structures that treat others as inferiors or second-class citizens. Society guarantees its members opportunity to participate in its government and access to its goods. The public square is open to all the public. As the Myaamia language puts it, kakapaaci iišinaakosiyankwi – “we are diverse.” When we include others, we are included; when we welcome others, we are welcomed; when we listen to others, we are heard.
Equality and dignity empower us to engage each other with the same respect and openness. We do not dismiss others’ ideas or beliefs simply because they are different from ours, just as we would not steal or damage others’ property because they are different from us. This does not mean that we must accept every belief, but we must respect the right to hold and express the belief. Such openness gives us the opportunity to examine the content of ideas that we have not considered before. We can evaluate the validity of the concepts without attacking the person who holds them; this is the basis of civil discourse. Often, we may discover that the free exchange can stimulate new directions, syntheses, and synergies.
This respect for others that we honor as Miamians empowers us to live in a safe, open, innovative, dialogical community of learning where we can practice the virtues we will need for success throughout career and life. This has always been our commitment – our alma mater asserts that Miami has “embraced the generation, men and women, young and old; of all races, from all nations.” The world where we live needs such models of life based on equality, respect, and dignity.