To all members of the Northeastern Community:
Tomorrow morning at convocation, our students, faculty, and staff join together from every corner of the globe to begin the new academic year. Our countless different backgrounds, beliefs, and identities are the foundation of Northeastern’s excellence and our most precious resource. Yet we find, today, that our community’s aspiration to be a model of reason and global perspective is rejected by some people.
It is not a bold stand to say that racism is wrong. It is not a mark of courage to condemn violence and bigotry. These stances are the norm for all people of decency and goodwill. But sometimes, events compel us to do more than simply affirm what we believe.
I know from personal experience that bigotry and hatred pose a very real threat. I come from a part of the world that saw its pluralistic society torn apart by a war between religions and identities. I learned that, when unopposed, hatred is a whirlwind that engulfs civilized norms and human lives.
The national events of recent weeks have convinced me that we must do more than simply repudiate disgraceful ideas. For Northeastern, and the nation, to remain welcoming for people of all races, religions, and identities, I believe we have work to do.
The coming year will no doubt bring many challenges, but I urge each of you to speak with passion, reason, and honesty. I ask for your continued support for our community members threatened by the possible repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. And since repeatedly calling for “diversity” and “inclusion” can lull us into familiarity, lessening our ideals into buzzwords, I ask each of us to weigh the difference between the values we profess and the actions that imbue them with meaning and power.
Northeastern has a proud tradition of engagement with the world, and essential to that engagement is a clearheaded and lucid confrontation of the world’s imperfections. Together, let us confront racism and hatred, as we confront the other problems that afflict society. Together, let us give life to our ideals through action.
Joseph E. Aoun