As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, let us be mindful of the global society we now live in. It is a difficult time for political discourse, let alone the kind of rowdy yet friendly debates that can erupt at Thanksgiving tables with people we know well and love.
The current political climate in this country is fraught with tension. The 2016 presidential campaign dominates many news stories with more and more outrageous statements and declarations by candidates. We hear that many want to close our borders. We see the Syrian refugees seeking a new home and a safer life as they flee the war in their homeland. We grieve with the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. And we watch with horror the continued instances of police brutality in our own cities and wonder why people have a problem with the statement “Black Lives Matter”. As I write this, I am following closely the story of white supremacists shooting protestors in my home town of Minneapolis. And on university campuses such as University of Missouri, Yale and Harvard where students seek to learn, there is racial strife that threatens to splinter them.
We sang a new hymn at church this past Sunday that really struck home for me. “Our World is One World” by Cecily Taylor included this verse:
Our world is one world, the thoughts we think affect us all. The way we build our attitudes, with love or hate, we make a bridge or wall.
When I participate in our IT department meetings and events I am reminded how wonderfully diverse we are. We are all human beings living in this community and working side by side. So many different nationalities and cultures are represented – we truly set an example of diversity. We speak a multitude of different languages, and yet, we are all united by a deep commitment to our work and our mission. We demonstrate basic respect for each other regardless of our backgrounds.
Ensuring that we work together as an international community is a fundamental goal of our University President Mark Schlissel. He communicated to students on Friday that racism and discrimination have no place on our campuses. Increasing diversity at U-M is an ongoing goal that he identified early on.
President Schlissel’s message came on the heels of the recent Diversity Summit which included students, faculty, staff, and leaders in health and higher education. These six recommendations made by the Staff Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are a result of this impressive event.
I would like to think we are very much on the right track at the University of Michigan, but we can do more.
People from 19 different countries were killed in the Paris attacks. News outlets reported that persons of all ages and nationalities came out to stand united together as Parisians, no matter what their cultural heritage. As bystanders were interviewed, it was remarkable to note how many spoke fluent English and communicated in a single voice. Buildings the world over were lit in blue, white, and red for the French flag in support.
Let’s continue to work together to build the kind of world we want for our children and grandchildren and generations to come.