Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
It has been one week since the end of the most divisive and contentious election any of us has ever known. Whatever our personal political views, emotions run high and feelings deep in what for many is a challenging and uncertain time. And not just acrimonious words but escalating numbers of cruel and frightening incidents—around the country, including on college campuses—now threaten our profoundest national and human values.
Although there is much about which we may differ and disagree—among ourselves and with others beyond Harvard—we must affirm the values of inclusion and belonging, and exemplify the respect for individuals and ideas that is the essence of an academic community. We must condemn and resist hatred, intimidation, and intolerance in every form. Working together, we have an obligation to provide all members of our community with an environment in which they can live in safety and dignity.
I have necessarily regarded this moment not just through the eyes of a university president, but also those of a historian—as a scholar keenly aware of how history turns on contingency, of how much what each one of us says and does matters. This is especially true in times of upheaval and change. We cannot shrink from—or escape—our responsibilities to both the present and the future. Violence, hatred, and divisiveness put all of us at risk; they put our society at risk; they put the very idea and purpose of universities at risk. In the face of such challenges, we must together demonstrate what it means to be a community enriched, not embattled, by difference and diversity; we must listen generously to one another across disagreement; we must model reasoned and respectful discourse and argument; we must all support those in our community who may feel vulnerable or under attack. And together we must use our capacities and our values—our important work as scholars, educators, and learners; our shared commitment to truth, understanding, and compassion—to help heal the wounds and divisions this election has so powerfully brought to light. Harvard has done this “through change and through storm” for almost four hundred years. Now it is our turn and our responsibility.