Amid the excitement of moving to Oxford and beginning my first week as president of Miami, the flag at half-staff outside of Roudebush and the continuous news reports of lives cut short – club-goers in Orlando, black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, then police in Dallas, and more – was a somber reminder of the tragedy and turmoil that gripped the nation this summer.
A reflective walk for inspiration at the Freedom Summer Memorial on Miami’s Western campus renewed my hope. These times bear striking resemblance to the struggles of the 1960s. Just as those who gathered at Western in the summer of ’64 made a difference— a difference that still reverberates today — Miamians will continue to do so.
My fervent hope at Miami is for us to continuously reflect upon our values, advance our thinking to be all-inclusive, and seek unity as we progress towards a model of inclusive excellence. We must recognize the enormous power of diversity to boost creativity and innovation, to introduce fresh ideas for consideration, synthesis, and refinement.
We must aim to become a model of how to organize our community to reflect a healthy society that practices civil discourse. We don’t have to agree, but we have to be able to have conversations where we truly listen, with respect and a genuine desire to understand.
The values summed up in our Code of Love and Honor immediately resonated with me, especially those tied to character, integrity, and respect for “the dignity of other persons”…and welcoming “a diversity of people, ideas, and experiences.” That commitment motivated our Freedom Summer predecessors, and it is fully alive today. It forms the starting point for any solution to divisions we face, here at Miami as well as globally.
In the short time I have been here, I’ve seen the power of a Miami education every day in students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are oriented toward social justice and who are passionate about making a difference. While we have much to do on our way to becoming a model for inclusive excellence, these dedicated Miamians can be our inspiration.
The flag at half-staff reminds us of how far we have to go – here at Miami and as we move on in the world – to achieve the justice and equality that we seek. The Freedom Summer Memorial reminds us that Miamians have the wisdom and understanding to remain focused on achieving justice and equality in the midst of upheaval, violence, and complexity; the empathy to inspire unity; and the courage to lead through these tumultuous times.
Love and Honor,