The chaotic scenes out of our nation’s capital this past week brought sadness, shock and real sense of fear for the future of civility in our country.
I also worried about my friend, Congressman Cliff Bentz, who just hours before a mob breached the Capitol, was sworn in as a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Thankfully, he and his family, along with other members of Congress remained safe. But it should be remembered, whatever our disagreements with our elected leaders or political ideologies, these are people who have families, loved ones and more often than not, more in common with each of us than our differences – and violence has no place in civil discourse or protests – in Washington, D.C. or in downtown Portland. It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum – violence should not be tolerated.
As President of Treasure Valley Community College, I could not help but think that these photos and videos of people storming the U.S. Capitol will leave an indelible mark on our collective history and memories about how we participate in our Republic.
How will our current students who are still learning about the history of this great nation view these events? How will it impact the willingness of good, thoughtful citizens to throw their hat into the ring of politics when they may be met with violent protest when disagreements arise?
Of course, I do not have the answers to these questions, but collectively I think we need to acknowledge a growing need to talk about these issues, to debate them civilly, and to move beyond personal attacks and rhetoric.
At TVCC, we value equity, inclusion and allowing space for individuals to share their views, beliefs and lived experiences. We have seen the impact and benefit of having campus-wide discussions about how to support and mentor first-generation or economically disadvantaged students, and how we can improve access for underserved students. These conversations help not only improve education, but they improve our ability to serve our community.
As an institution of higher education, TVCC has a key role in helping lead these conversations. Our facilitation of these exchanges supports our students in having productive discourse and debate in their classes and on campus about these issues. We do not have to agree on the issues or even the solutions, but we should agree that when disagreements dissolve into violence or willful disregard for the law those acts become criminal, and no longer part of the healthy political discourse.
Regardless of our personal preferences, it is past time for every American to respect the electoral process and accept the results of the election. This is not about politics or partisanship. It is about stopping the spread of misinformation, violence, and insurrection. It is about doing the right thing.
Like many of you, I continue to add my prayers for the for the safety of all members of Congress and law enforcement. And I add my hope and belief that our democracy will remain firm.
Finally, I am reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” Let us stand together, now more than ever.”