To many of you, the world today must feel a colder and more lonely place. Over the past months, we have watched the parameters of what is acceptable in our political and social life, and in the speech acts associated with that life, shift radically away from established norms of racial justice, gender fairness and basic equality before the law.
I write these lines not as a partisan in our political process, but as someone who has been asked to steward, for the time being, an institution that is not neutral on these questions, and that cannot remain neutral.
Our values demand, whatever the rhetoric outside our campus, that we embrace the possibility that there is a place for all of us, on this campus and in this society: wherever you were born, and however you came here. They demand that we embrace our differences as virtues rather than threats, and recognize and nurture the promise represented by each person moving across this earth. At the most fundamental level, they demand that we commit our private and public selves to the responsibility of taking care of one another: of recognizing pain, and want, and isolation when we see it in those around us, and offering such comfort as we can.
We are a campus of immigrants, and the advocacy for justice in the field of immigration will continue to be central to our educational efforts. We are a campus community that proclaims its diversity, and so we must be a refuge and a source of wisdom on questions of racial, religious and gender fairness. We are, as an institution, built on foundational beliefs about the necessary place of accessible education—and by implication the need for robust social and economic mobility—in any stable and democratic society. And all of this means that whenever and for whatever reason the climate shifts against these values outside our campus, we are obliged to reaffirm them within it.
I have always thought that CCNY has been, throughout its history, a step ahead of the country—that it has been our privilege and obligation to model, for the rest of the world, what a better and more perfect union should look like, to educate young people in a belief in that world, and send them out to help make it. That is our legacy, and I fervently hope that you feel its weight and honor, now more than ever.
Let's be that place. Let's look one another in the eye today. Let's stick together, and in that basic act of community, continue the work we came to this campus to do.