President Herbert's statement on riot at the Capitol
University of New England President James D. Herbert issued the following statement in response to events that took place at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2021.
Dear UNE Community,
On Wednesday, we witnessed events at our nation’s Capitol that, while, unfortunately, not altogether surprising given the current political climate in the U.S., were completely abhorrent.
We are a nation of laws and civil institutions developed over centuries. However imperfect, these written codes and unwritten traditions are the foundation of our democracy. They are the tools that allow us to become better as a nation, to aspire to our higher ideals. Wednesday’s events in Washington, D.C. represented a frontal attack on this very foundation.
We watched in horror as a violent mob disrupted a Constitutionally mandated joint session of Congress to ratify the peaceful transfer of power — a hallmark of our Republic for over two centuries — a mob deliberately incited to do so by President Trump in his remarks earlier in the day.
As I watched in disbelief the events unfolding in real time, I was struck by some things it revealed about the current state of our society. I could not help but notice the contrast in the way law enforcement responded to this almost exclusively White crowd relative to the response to protests led by Black and Brown citizens earlier this year. That contrast alone stands as a stark rebuke to any claim that race no longer matters in America.
I am a longtime supporter of the marketplace of ideas — of creating spaces for robust, civil discourse — both in the classroom and in co-curricular spaces. The only way to heal the divisions in our society is through honest and respectful conversation. We must commit to listening to one another deeply and openly. We must be willing to express our ideas sincerely and constructively, even when we disagree. And we must embrace the discomfort and vulnerability that comes with true dialogue. These conversations are not just the way we grow as individuals, but they are fundamental to our ability to thrive together in an increasingly diverse, pluralistic society.
This kind of genuine discourse stands in contrast to what we witnessed Wednesday: words and actions that are inherently anti-democratic, that promote dangerous falsehoods, that subvert the functions of government, that are racist, and that espouse violence.
While the day’s events were deeply troubling, in the end, saner heads prevailed, good people stepped up, and the resilience of our democracy shone through. But for democracy to endure, it requires vigilance and proactive involvement from each and every American citizen. We must be engaged citizens at all times, not just during election years or during crises.
I call on the Nor’easter community to take this opportunity to reflect on the importance of our democratic institutions, to recommit ourselves to building a more just and sustainable world, and to redouble our efforts to connect with one another in a spirit of love and openness.
With warm regards,
James D. Herbert