Message from President Knapp

Dr. Knapp addresses last week’s national tragedies.

President Knapp
George Washington President Steven Knapp.
July 12, 2016

I write today to our university community after a somber week of national outrage, mourning, and prayer in the wake of violence in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas. 

Clearly there is a need for sustained and serious dialogue about the causes of such terrible events.  I have been impressed ever since I joined this community by its commitment to dialogue across every kind of boundary, and I have been inspired by the idea that our capacity to explore and discuss the deepest issues affecting our community might provide a model to a nation that, as is all too painfully evident, desperately needs that example.

But we must do more than explore and discuss.  Last November, I wrote to you about conflicts that had arisen on university campuses where African American students had encountered forms of bias and exclusion that belied the promises of the institutions that had actively encouraged them to enroll.  I wrote at the time that colleges and universities could achieve excellence only if they embraced “the talents, experience, and contributions of students from all backgrounds.”  “Indeed,” I added, “our democracy as a whole can thrive only if the doors of educational opportunity at all levels are fully and visibly open to members of all the communities that make up the fabric of our nation.” 

Since writing those words, I have been moved and saddened by what I have continued to hear from our students as well as members of our faculty and staff about obstacles they encounter at George Washington.  In the coming year we will strengthen and accelerate our efforts to make sure we realize our promise to be a community of scholars in which the interests, contributions, and aspirations of all our students, faculty, and staff are recognized, respected, and given the fullest possible scope.  I invite every member of our community to join that effort.

This is not to say that the institutional work we must do inside and outside the classroom is an adequate response to what occurred last week.  Our most important contribution to addressing the sources of such violence is not through what we say or do here but through the graduates who, when they leave us, carry their knowledge and their commitment to justice beyond these walls and out into the world we count on them to change. 
So we continue to move forward together in hope as well as sorrow.  As we do so, I ask that we attend in particular to those whose own experiences of violence or exclusion may make them particularly vulnerable to the emotional effects of this national trauma.  Again, we all have a role to play in building the community we know we are meant to be.