On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Olivet College President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., addressed the 2016 presidential election. Read the Olivet College mission and vision.
Members of the Olivet College Community:
We’re now one week past the national election and it has allowed time for reflection on what transpired and why as we consider what may be in store for the future. There is no escaping the fact that this has been a highly divisive election where discourse has often been more about personal attacks, insults, and power through fear than a debate of ideas and policies that will advance our nation and strengthen our communities. In a system that, for practical purposes, offered a binary choice, we were presented with what the majority of Americans considered two flawed candidates. But, choose we must, and did.
Unfortunately, the post-election period has seen more of the same. In reading numerous accounts and in talking with many of you, we hear reports from around our nation and state of overt racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other hate-related actions seemingly done in the name of and with implicit sanction by the president-elect. In return, we’ve seen broad sweeping accusations by Clinton supporters that those who voted for Trump are haters, bigots, misogynists, racists… in the words of the candidate herself, “deplorables.” This divisive approach is the lowest form of discourse and will not lead us to outcomes that will make our country, communities, or ourselves better and stronger. By tearing others down, we diminish ourselves in the process.
The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Fear. Many are reporting being afraid, afraid that the modern global economy has left them behind; afraid that radical insurgents will invade their communities; afraid that their families will suddenly be rounded up and deported; afraid that racism may now have a permissive and powerful voice; afraid that decades of advances in social justice and equality will suddenly be turned back, to name a few. Unfortunately, operating from a position of fear, while powerful in creating strong, swift responses in the short-term, rarely leads to the sort of long-term, complex solutions we desire. If we are to ensure that all are able to join and benefit from the modern global economy; ensure the safety and security of our families and communities; enact compassionate and effective immigration reform; and ensure that all are afforded an equal opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we will have to overcome and defeat this fear.
Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the
underlying circumstances that come from a feeling of helplessness.
– Susan Jeffers
People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t
know each other; they don’t know each other because they do not communicate with each other.
– Martin Luther King, Jr
Division, hate, fear and threats to social justice are not new and in many respects is why Olivet College exists today. Olivet College’s founders recognized that the establishment of an educational community founded on the values of inclusion, mutual respect, honesty, integrity, and a God-inspired love for one another was needed. Our founders did so in a time when these values weren’t pervasively embraced by greater society or by those in power and government. In 1844, Olivet College became the first college in Michigan to admit women and persons of color on a co-equal basis with white men. This was 19 years prior to the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. The State of Michigan refused to sanction the college and no other college in Michigan admitted women for 36 years after Olivet’s founding. Hiram Archer, who attended Olivet College from 1889-1905 was one of the first African-American intercollegiate athletes in the Nation when he played varsity baseball for Olivet College. By comparison Michigan State University athletics didn’t integrate until 1913 and in 1934 the University of Michigan was still benching black athletes when they played teams from the South, who refused to play them if they didn’t. The University of Alabama refused to play an integrated team until 1959 and didn’t integrate themselves until 1971, 82 years after Hiram Archer played at Olivet College. Early on the college understood the need to admit students from different cultures and religions and in the 1870’s a Hindu student from India was admitted with financial support by the Olivet Congregational Church.
From its beginning, Olivet College has never waited for permission nor conformed when the values of the greater society have clashed with ours. Was there divisiveness then? Yes. Was there hatred then? Yes. Was there fear then? Yes. Was there helplessness then? Yes. Did Olivet College stand firmly against these forces, focusing on its values and proceeding to do its part to build and strengthen this value-based community and in the process help make the world a better place? Absolutely! Today, must be no different.
As it was in 1844, now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to these values. We may have limited control, an admitted sense of individual helplessness, and fear regarding what’s happening in Washington, DC; but, this is our college community. We get to determine the values which form the foundation of this community we build together.
Therefore, I’m calling upon all of us, students, faculty, and staff, to demonstrate our unshakable resolve, to reaffirm the values that have endured for 172 years and remain more important today than ever. Through conversation and engagement we can come together to seek common understanding and unity through these shared values. This is where we can find comfort and strength, individually and collectively.
This need not be a time of fear and helplessness. I look forward to working together with each of you in the months ahead to accomplish something good and meaningful for ourselves and our college community.
With very best regards,
Steven M Corey, Ph.D.