Urged to “Stand Together; Stand Firm; Stand Resolute In Our Variety, In Our Different Journeys, and In Our Shared Dreams.”
First, and foremost, let me extend a deep-felt thanks to our courageous student leaders, from NJIT & Rutgers-Newark, for standing forth, standing in solidarity, and pushing back with all our hearts and minds against an effort to splinter us, to exceptionalize America, to so narrow the boundaries of who is in and who is out as to demean the very meaning of community.
After all, just think about how you travelled here, just look around and think about those in our collective communities whose personal narratives you most treasure and respect. How did they and their forbearers get here? Were they brought here forcibly, enslaved as if non-human? Or, were they always here as the rightful Native Americans, now not even in control of their sacred land? Did they come in waves, as refugees of persecution or as strivers travelling to the land of opportunity, the place where dreams are made? Did they flee a potato famine or a pogrom; take an underground railroad or an unseaworthy boat to freedom? Maybe they just wanted a better education for their children. Maybe they just wanted a place to freely pursue their faith – whatever it may be – amongst a community of communities; a people of many peoples.
Does that sound familiar – are those the stories you heard growing up, the stories that inspired you to be amongst a community of scholars, students, and citizens as diverse and yet solidly together as ours, in this global sanctuary that is Newark. Welcome home, welcome here, and we will all stand together to keep us all together – to honor the voyages that have made America great.
For a strong and safe community depends on the good will of its different members, not on the power that any one group wields. Being safe involves a constant act of bravery – risking to trust a neighbor, not because they look or speak or pray the same way you do, but precisely because they don’t – and because you recognize how much better you are because you can hold hands across the divides, the lands, the borders – rising together, not splintering apart.
Let’s stand together; stand firm; stand resolute in our variety, in our different journeys, and in our shared dreams. That is what educated people do; that is what a democracy requires of all of us.