With you, I watched yesterday’s shameful events in our nation’s Capitol Building unfold on television. I also watched individuals from my third floor DC apartment as they returned from the takeover, carrying Confederate, Trump, and American flags. It was their laughter that disturbed me as much as anything. They were proud of themselves.
I’m sure we’d like to assume that such mobs don’t contain our students or alumni, and I have no way of knowing. I do know, however, that Congress contains our graduates, both as elected officials and key staff. I know that our graduates are among those who have been opportunistically stirring this national unrest, displaying a narrow sense of responsibility. I know the administration contains alumni who have remained silent.
I also remembered meeting individuals in the highest ranks of Congressional law enforcement, who proudly told me of their Catholic university affiliations. I thought of them yesterday as I watched the blatant differences in police protection, compared with the recent Black Lives Matter protests. The differing racial assumptions regarding which group would cause violence or harm were on broad display.
I am not indicting our good faith attempts over the years to instill a well-prepared sense of moral duty. I am, however, reminding us that we have accepted the responsibility of preparing the nation’s leaders, and that yesterday’s failure should — at the very least — push us to double-down on the responsibility we have undertaken. We may not be responsible for yesterday’s events, but we have a responsibility.
My prayer is that yesterday’s events will offer all of us a leadership opportunity to stir campus reflection on how we teach civil responsibility, a sense of the common good, racial equality, and moral integrity. It is a shame that yesterday’s events transpired. It would be another shame if we miss this moment’s educational possibilities.
Rev, Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM
President, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
January 7, 2021
(The University of St. Michael’s College is a proud member of ACCU.)