November 11, 2016

What's Next for Our Country?

At Guilford College, I am heartened to know that so many of our students passionately participated in the political process — with many casting votes for the very first time. They are gaining life-shaping insights as they begin to see first-hand the many challenges, benefits and complexities of democracy.

Election Day is over and now our nation prepares for another transition in leadership just as we have done so many times before during our 240 years as a nation. I have had the privilege of voting in 10 presidential elections, and not all of them have gone as I had hoped. But this one shocked me to my very core. The last time I felt this way was on the morning of 9/11. The building I was in shook when a pilot deliberately flew a plane into the Pentagon. My understanding of the world changed all at once and took my breath away. I had to remind myself to breathe in and out.

Days after this election I’m still trembling. I feel like I was in “a crash” and now I have to survive, and remember to breathe, walk, and move ahead. I learned that a major portion of our citizenry has felt deeply disenfranchised for a long time, and they made their views known at the ballot box. While they are celebrating, the rest of us are asking how we could have elected someone who espouses positions and views that are fundamentally at odds with what we hold to be our rights and responsibilities as American citizens?

Since the 1780s, this tree has witnessed the course of American history — from the Underground Railroad to Every Campus a Refuge.

The most contentious and polarizing presidential election in my lifetime has exposed a deep divide in our nation. I guess we always knew it was there, but now it stands in the open for all to see. In the election aftermath, people all over the world are displaying deep-seated emotions. Some are angry and fearful; some are fed up; some are happy; some just don’t know what to feel or what to do. This is a time to reach out to other people to listen deeply and speak authentically. Now that we know, we have no choice but to begin the hard work of weaving us together, one thread at a time.

Here at Guilford, many students, faculty and staff are grieving the outcome of this presidential election. They are very worried about what a Donald Trump presidency means for them as individuals, how it will impact their immediate families and friends, and what it says about the central tenets of democracy. My recent conversations with undocumented students affirm their love for this country in spite of all its challenges; but they are now living in fear.

I too am afraid and concerned. President-Elect Trump has remained callously bold in outlining troubling plans that, if implemented, will have a devastating impact on scores of immigrants and refugees living here. And his stated views on pulling back progressive social policies and laws could certainly lead to new struggles for LGBQTIAA communities and other groups including people with disabilities, women and children, people of color and foreign born people, among many others. Please take heart, though, knowing that Guilford College is a safe place for all—you will always be welcome here.

At this point, none of us can know for sure what Trump will do. But I know and believe that we have individual and collective power. Regardless of how any of us feel about the new president-elect, the important thing to remember is that our individual and collective investment in the critical issues of our time must begin yet again. Now is the time we must step up our efforts.

We must be vigilant and vocal in holding all of our leaders accountable at all levels. At the same time, we must continue to commit ourselves to the pursuit of the core values and testimonies we hold so dearly at Guilford College. We must reach out to people who feel marginalized, listen to their voices, and seek unity. Our fervent quest for liberty and justice depends on finding unity in search of the Light that helps us find our way forward.