The following statements were issued or posted on social media by the presidents of several Washington-area institutions of higher education:
“As we work through our feelings and try to process and understand what happened, let us remember our nation’s most fundamental values: the value of peace, the value of civility and mutual respect, the value of democracy, and the value of freedom in America…
“What we witnessed on Wednesday at the United States Capitol was horrific and traumatic for nearly everyone. It also exacerbated for many in our community, particularly people of color, minorities, and deaf people, more fear and concern about further oppression, violence, and destruction. I acknowledge this pain, frustration, and deep concern about what these events challenging the outcome of the Presidential election will mean for members of our community…
“These past several months have been severely challenging for our nation — but we are strong. I firmly believe that our shared humanity is more powerful than our differences. It is why we must focus on our anti-racism work. In this spirit, I ask us to listen more, be curious about those who do not see the world in the same way we do, and try to find common ground to build a stronger future. We cannot look to others to do this work first. It must begin with us in our community, the Gallaudet community, and the deaf community, both here and globally.
“The resolve to preserve and protect our democracy is strong. My hope is that this resolve will serve as a wake-up call to our nation, and that it will renew our commitment to civil discourse and mutual respect, restore our democratic norms, and allow us to continue our journey as a nation to become a more perfect union by ensuring that every person in our nation equally experiences the benefits, rights, and opportunities promised to us through the ideals of freedom, equity, and justice embedded in our Constitution.
“Deaf people, and our Gallaudet community, are resilient. America is resilient. As Abraham Lincoln said, ours is a government that is of, by, and for the people, and it ‘shall not perish from the earth.’”
Roberta Cordano, President, Gallaudet University, Vice-Chair, Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area
“Tonight more than ever we need to be Patriots with a capital P. It’s easy to feel helpless at the events that unfolded just east of our campuses today, but we can be of service to our communities and our nation.
“To be clear, we are living through a moment in our American history that we can scarcely comprehend as it unfolds. Network news outlets show our US Capitol building overtaken while our leaders exercise a cherished ritual of our democracy…
“Many of us are also struggling to reconcile the dissonance of this response with that of protests that occurred in Washington last year. Those legal acts of civil disobedience provoked far more violent and forceful law enforcement actions. We are left with far more questions than answers tonight.
“History in the moment rarely makes sense, and it can easily evoke intense emotions that invite reactions of raw passion. But the fact remains that today’s events are still a shared experience for all of us as Americans, even though we view them as a deeply divided nation. Through it all, we are all still in this American experience together.
“What can we do as a university community? First, we must stay safe, take care of ourselves, and look out for each other in this moment of extreme volatility. Second, we have to remind ourselves and each other that we will make it through this and come out a better nation – because we always do.
“And finally, we are a university, which gives us both great privilege and a great responsibility to observe, learn, teach, and act as first interpreters of moments such as these, with all of their violence, complexity, contradictions, and ambiguities.
“The nation is struggling to understand what is happening, how to react, and how to move beyond this. Academic communities like Mason’s are at their best when they step into moments like these to offer perspective, clarity, and when necessary, hard truths that force us to grow even as we seek to heal.
“So tonight, be safe and be well. And when this moment has passed, Patriots, let’s get back to work, doing what we do best.”
Gregory Washington, President, George Mason University
“I’ve been in Washington for half a century, have witnessed and even participated in many important moments with large crowds of protest or celebration, and yet I never saw or imagined anything like what happened yesterday. Shocking as the scenes were, we also have to understand that they were at some level entirely predictable given the incendiary rhetoric of the incumbent president and the rising tide of hate organizations — white supremacists, domestic terrorists — encouraged by the president’s rhetoric and false claims of election fraud. The timing of the insurrection on the Hill — immediately after the convening of the joint session of Congress to certify the election of the new president and vice president — was not coincidence. The point of the invasion was to stop Congress from confirming the presidential election results, in fact, to stage an authoritarian coup, an overthrow of government.
“We can be rightfully proud of our Trinity Alumna, Nancy Pelosi ’62, Speaker of the House, who presided over the joint session with Vice President Pence. Democracy prevailed despite all of the threats and violence.
“Now the hard work of repairing our government must begin. To do that, we have to be thoughtful and insightful about what led to this complete breakdown in public order. We know some of the issues — the virulence of white supremacy and racial hatred that courses through our society, the political ideologies that encourage some Americans to believe that others do not belong here, the misguided beliefs about individual rights prevailing over the common good, the political deals that sacrifice integrity to gain personal power. We have to be honest about the fractures in our nation — I wrote about Who We Really Are in my blog this morning.
“Let’s go forward together in 2021 determined to make even greater contributions to justice and peace for our communities, families and nation.”
Pat McGuire, President, Trinity Washington University
“I was shocked and horrified as I followed what took place yesterday on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol – known across the world not just as the meeting place for the legislative branch of the federal government, but as an enduring symbol of our nation’s democracy.
“Many of you know that I am a refugee of the Cuban Revolution, whose family escaped violence with dreams of their children living under a democratic government. I love our country with all my heart, but yesterday’s events stand in stark contrast with our democratic ideals. It was heartbreaking to see this reprehensible act committed against our democratic process.
“However, I am still hopeful for what is ahead, and optimistic that our country can heal from these wounds and unite. I am confident that our country will rise to the challenge and our commitment to the common good as members of the American family. All of us can play a role in standing up for and representing our nation’s principles of democracy, service and protecting our country and one another.
“I am reminded of the words of Pope Francis, who said, ‘It is impossible for peace to exist without dialogue. All the wars, all the strife, all the unsolved problems over which we clash are due to a lack of dialogue. When there is a problem, talk – this makes peace.’
“As members of a higher education institution that values intellectual curiosity, service to others and having a global perspective, we Saints are in a unique position to craft a better future.
“God bless you, and may God bless America.”
Irma Becerra, President, Marymount University
“We are all still processing yesterday’s reprehensible events at the US Capitol. Like many of you, I have walked those halls and marveled at the enduring pillars of our democracy. I proudly served alongside many of the people who were under siege yesterday while working to preserve and advance our nation. I am shaken and I am angry. What we witnessed at the Capitol was the culmination of the many challenging times we have endured in recent years, making the pain of this moment deeper and more damaging.
“Yesterday was the greatest domestic assault on our democracy and the values we hold dear since the Civil War. The president of the United States incited and defended these horrific actions, placing our nation in great peril. We condemn the rioters and the disregard for truth that contributed to yesterday’s violence. We stand united in support of our democracy and those defending it.
“It was also an ugly and unmistakable reflection of the systemic racism that plagues our society and deeply harms people of color every single day. Predominantly white rioters stormed the US Capitol and met far less resistance and aggression than we have seen in peaceful protests by people of color. The effect of these events on communities of color and the ongoing dramatic burden of systemic racism must be confronted alongside the undermining of our democracy.
“The events at the Capitol were the antithesis of our AU community’s values of dignity, justice, inclusion, and truth. While we reckon with the challenges of this moment, we will continue to act in pursuit of those values. That includes the antiracism work fundamental to our university, and the overall pursuit of knowledge, truth, community, and progress that is central to our mission and critical to further our democracy.
“This situation still presents danger and instability in our city and in our nation…We will continue to monitor events and adjust our security precautions as necessary, and we are focused on risks that may arise around the presidential inauguration. We will provide additional updates as events unfold.
“As we each reconcile our own feelings about yesterday and think about what it means for the future of our nation, our charge as Americans and as American University Eagles is to address the systemic challenges on display and to care for each other. Our nation’s future depends on the ability of our community and communities everywhere to confront these challenges with purpose, honesty, and action.
“Be safe and be well.”
Sylvia Burwell, President, American University
“Last night’s violence at the U.S. Capitol was appalling on so many levels— the loss of life, the trampling of our Constitution, the occupation of historic chambers, and the open display of symbols of hatred. In an earlier era, I would have thought it unnecessary to articulate my opposition to these offenses. Yesterday’s mayhem, however, was a reminder that democracy can be destroyed when good people stand by and say nothing. A profound rebuke of these actions is necessary as we defend one of the pillars of democratic health—the peaceful transition of presidential power.
“The disruption of fundamental, democratic norms must be condemned. We should also call for an end to the divisive rhetoric that has been permitted to circulate in our midst, pitting citizens against one another based on unfounded claims. This moment stands as a lesson in the vulnerability of democracy when it is not reinforced with high standards of truth and shared measures of accountability. People of all political persuasions should recognize these dangers and take responsibility for their roles.
“As I reflect on yesterday’s violence and the disruption to our common safety—both physical and existential—I am encouraged by the strength of the Montgomery College community. We are much more than just educators and students. We have been, and will continue to be, conveyors of civil discourse, constructors of inclusive classrooms, and leaders in protecting the vulnerable in our society. Teaching and learning can move mountains of ignorance and incivility. The values we promote every day—inclusivity, civility, and intellectual rigor—are antidotes to incidents such as those we witnessed last night. Education, information, and dialogue build democratic norms and infuse our communities with the necessary tools for robust democratic processes. Let us all contribute to repairing the damage done to our shared democratic fabric by standing for civil discourse, decrying undemocratic norms, and building transparent, accountable structures that protect our nation.”
DeRionne P. Pollard, President, Montgomery College
Dear NOVA Community:
Like you, I watched Wednesday’s events in horror and disbelief. It’s taken a day to even begin to put into words what I feel, which is–admittedly–still raw and rattling.
By nature, I’m a bit cynical, but the first time I visited the Capitol it felt like I had won a golden ticket to a place straight out of my grade school history books. This was more than an ornate old building: it told the story of an imperfect nation that never quit working to live up to its ideals; it felt like democracy.
Then yesterday afternoon, I watched individuals with nothing but disrespect and disregard for the ideals that hold up our democracy defile the Capitol. I watched a flag that generations of Americans have given their lives for replaced with horrid symbols of racism, antisemitism, and fascism. I watched the disturbing glee and twisted pride of domestic terrorists mugging for the camera as they destroyed and stole—with impunity borne of privilege—the symbols of our country. I watched and watched. It was too much. Yet, I could not look away. All afternoon and into the evening, I just kept watching and found myself falling into a trap of blinding hatred set by those who know only hate.
Today is the birthday of Zora Neale Hurston, and something that she wrote came up in my feed this morning, the morning after the unimaginable: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” These words cut straight through the hate.
2020 was a year that asked searing and painful questions about the lasting impact of structural racism and income inequality and the inequities revealed by a pandemic that would not stop. The start of 2021 brought with it a kind of magical thinking, a belief that a new calendar would make these questions go away. Yesterday, we saw that it did not; it never could.
Yesterday, democracy was attacked: we saw it with our own eyes and we cannot wish it or explain it or excuse it away. It was ugly and terrifying and real.
2021 has started by asking us the same hard questions that 2020 did.
If this is to be a year that answers, if it is to be different, we must make it so, together. I ask you to join me in answering. Community colleges are democracy’s colleges; here dreams are made real; here opportunity lives; here the door is open; and here our answer is hope.
A hope that fills every space and leaves no room for hate; a hope that reaches every corner; an unstoppable hope that meets every challenge undeterred; a clear- and open-eyed hope that sees the world for what it is but knows what it can and must be; a tough, bold, and brilliant hope that will not be defeated, quieted, or dimmed.
I hope that you will hope, too.
Let’s make 2021 a year that answers.
Anne M. Kress, President, Northern Virginia Community College
To the George Washington University Community:
Like many of you, I watched in horror and dismay as violent protestors stormed the Capitol and tried to prevent the United States Congress from performing its constitutional duty of counting the Electoral College votes from the presidential election. The pictures of members of Congress forced to take shelter under their desks as protestors scaled the walls of the Capitol were almost unimaginable, and those responsible need to be punished to the full extent of the law. I have been reflecting on these deeply disturbing acts, and I would like to take a few moments to share some thoughts as we move forward together.
As the events unfolded yesterday, our foremost priority was to protect the safety of our community. Given our campus location in the heart of Washington, the safety of our students, faculty, staff and broader community is always our primary concern in these situations. But I also know that when we think about our location, it means much more to us than our physical proximity to events on Capitol Hill or at the White House. At GW, our location represents the democratic ideals we uphold, our sense of civic responsibility, and our passion for public service. It is a constant reminder that we must use our teaching and research mission in service of the public good, and in service of democracy—especially when that democracy is threatened.
We have experienced many difficult months that make it hard to think about the future. But we should remain hopeful. I am optimistic because the best hope for our future is education. We are a community of learners and leaders who not only talk about the importance of facts and truth in our national discourse but also bring them to bear on seemingly intractable problems. We have done so for nearly two centuries, and we will continue this work—today, tomorrow, and every day—in the hope that it could create a better world for all. Let’s channel our horror and anger about yesterday’s events toward a passion for making a difference and doing all we can to strengthen our great democracy.
Stay safe and stay well.
Thomas J. LeBlanc, President, The George Washington University
Statements Posted on Social Media:
“I am tremendously saddened and troubled by yesterday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol building and literal assault on our democracy. My immediate thoughts are consumed with anxiety for the security of our city and the welfare of the Howard students, faculty and staff members who are still studying and working in Washington, D.C.
“In the strongest possible terms, I condemn the violent takeover of our hallowed halls of government; I denounce those who participated in, as well as those who instigated these acts.
“I encourage everyone to abide by the district’s curfew laws and to stay home as much as possible. Please consider your safety before anything else.”
Wayne Frederick, President, Howard University, Chair, Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area
“Over the past few hours, we have witnessed a violent attempt to disrupt the democratic process and prevent our Congress from fulfilling its Constitutional responsibilities. These acts are reprehensible and have no place in our country. I strongly condemn these criminal attempts to undermine our republic. For more than two centuries, our American project has been defined by our commitment to the ideals of democracy. Across our nation, there is an extraordinary depth of commitment to these ideals that, especially today, can be a source of consolation and solidarity as we pursue important and necessary work to build a more just and equitable future.”
John DeGioia, President, Georgetown University
“Today, we saw violence, chaos, and dangerous disregard for the rule of law in our nation’s capital, less than 10 miles from our campus. I hope every member of our UMD community is safe. We are monitoring the situation closely, as many of our neighbors are under curfew.
“Even as we come to grips with the attack we witnessed today, I believe in the resiliency of our democracy. Stay safe.”
Daryll Pines, President, University of Maryland