Some have said that 2020 is the “year of perfect vision” because when your vision is 20/20 you can see clearly. What are we seeing during this challenging year? We are seeing many things that make us distressed, hurt, anxious and upset. We fear for our health, our finances, our families, our neighborhoods. As faculty and administrators we are deeply concerned for our students. Our focus is on what is not happening (pandemic closures and restrictions) as well as what IS happening (civil unrest, injustice, racism).
It makes for a confusing picture. We look toward our leaders to guide us through these difficult times. Some of those leaders are forthright and inspiring. Some seem to be more in disarray than we are. Everything is disrupted.
In a recent conference keynote I spoke about how to cope with disruption. One of the things I mentioned was that during a storm at sea, ships lower a sea anchor that drags in the water to help keep the ship steady. What anchors can you use to stay steady in such volatile circumstances? A trusted advisor, a wise loyal friend, a role model, or mentor can help you find calm in the storm. Good values such as honesty, faith, patience, diligence, service, and hope keep you on a steady track when life is swirling around you.
The social fabric of our world is being disrupted. We’ve been separated by distancing measures meant to keep us safe and reduce the spread of disease. But we are seeing important issues unfolding that cry out for our response. For those of us in the Media, it is distressing to see journalists assaulted while trying to report on events.
Racial tensions have led to protests and riots. The economy is in a precarious state. Our climate is at risk. Neighbors, friends, family, are frightened or in pain. Our own mental health is burdened and our usual forms of support are weakened or gone completely. The way forward is a blur.
What should we do?
- Keep your eyes open. Question everything. Use your critical thinking skills to evaluate the information you are receiving. Is it true? Is it biased? Is it complete?
- Make and hold space for our brothers and sisters of marginalized groups: Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, the poor, the disenfranchised. Seek to understand their situations and how you can help.
- Raise your voice. Take peaceful, lawful action. Use your skills and talents to oppose injustice, counter racism, expose privilege, and generate change.
- Tell the truth, act with integrity, demonstrate leadership.
What happens in the future will depend upon what all of us do right now. Mahatma Ghandi encouraged us to be the change we wish to see in the world. That means acting in accordance with the principles we hold dear: Tolerance. Fairness. Equity.
Black educator and social reformer Frederick Douglass said that if there is no struggle, there is no progress.
You can’t do everything, but you can do something. Do what you can. Stay safe. Stay informed. Keep talking. Keep learning. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Take every opportunity you can to learn from history, learn about the issues we’re facing, and learn what is needed to make our society work.
I believe every one of you has the power to be an example to others and lead us into a brighter future. We need you. Start now.