Deans for Impact is a national organization that has had the privilege of working with leaders throughout this country to improve our nation’s education system. In the wake of the violence committed by American white nationalists in Charlottesville over the past weekend, we reached out to offer our support to Dean Bob Pianta of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. With his permission, we are sharing the message he sent to the Curry community – a message of goodness, compassion and care that represent the best of American values. Let us work together to continue to foster them.
Over the past 24 hours, we have encountered violence, hatred and bigotry in our city and at our University on a scale seldom seen here. The effects of these terrible acts have been visited upon us all, but numbers of our community have been directly and gravely affected. On behalf of the Curry School, I send my sincere condolences to all who have suffered trauma, whether physical or psychological.
I suspect that over the next days and even weeks, as we attempt to make some sense of senseless acts, many of us will practice some form of reflective contemplation. However and wherever you may do so, I would encourage everyone to make time to reflect deeply on your most closely held beliefs and values, and how you put those into practice in your daily life. As educators and people who create conditions for education and fostering the best of human development, we have core values that respect and appreciate human difference and potential for good. As professionals we hold a responsibility to use our knowledge and skill to promote those values and work to see them take root in the lives of people. Many of us will ask how people come to be so full of anger that they are willing to dedicate some portion of their lives to expressing hatred toward others. And we will also reflect and bear witness to great courage shown by so many people whose deep goodness and care was shown in the face of such anger. As you reflect on today, and as we face into the weeks ahead, let our individual and collective values show in our interactions with others, in our talk and in our work, to stand for goodness, compassion and care for one another and not allow the vile and despicable acts and words we witnessed today to stand unchallenged.
As President Sullivan said earlier today, many of the behaviors witnessed yesterday and today contradict our values of diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect. We should not forget, however, that we also witnessed acts of care and compassion in our committee that are consistent with our values. Police officers, EMTs, medical personnel, community organizers and countless good Samaritans and community members prevented harm that might have otherwise occurred. Again, I invite you to reflect on and appreciate their goodness.
As you are well aware, the opening of the school year is only days away. Please take what time remains to care for yourself and your loved ones so that, when the school year begins, we may turn our energies to preparing graduates who will go into the world and do good work for society. In our teaching, research, service and clinical care, we make a difference.
Please also be assured we will welcome our new and returning community members with open arms. This year, even more than ever, I ask us all to make an extra effort to reach out with care and compassion as we build Curry community.