E Pluribus Unum

Dear Campus Community,

Elections have winners and losers. This has been true throughout the history of our democracy. In my decades of voting, I’ve been alternately exhilarated and depressed depending on outcomes. This experience has taught me that the same United States that elects Democrats in one election chooses Republicans (or Independents or Green Party, or Tea Party, etc.) in another.

I’ve also learned that no supporter of a particular candidate should be defined by the worst, and perhaps exaggerated, rhetoric spoken by candidates in the heat of a campaign. It’s very important that on our campus we do not define those who voted one way or the other by particular words that have been said during the long campaign season. We can hold candidates accountable for each word, but not their supporters.

In the wake of the 2016 election I trust that all who voted were trying to improve our country and preserve our sacred privilege of living in a democracy. Various groups see different avenues to promote national success, however.

For example, there is no doubt that our nation is increasingly plagued with growing income inequality. Middle class status is stressed by the technological transformation of manufacturing jobs and the rise of our information society.

How we prevent the nation and California from becoming split by this income divide is a key question and one that I am sure motivated many who voted for one candidate or another. As a university, we see higher education as the key to future economic success, but obviously that is not a universally shared perspective.

The human diversity that we celebrate at The Beach is a cause of anxiety for many. This anxiety may relate to economic, cultural, gender, political, religious and/or ethnic challenges to some imagined status quo. Any of us can be afraid of a loss of power and influence even when we profess to be egalitarian. This seems to be a very human failing.

Universities can be “bubbles”—while announcing they invite diversity, they can actually be intolerant of diverse political viewpoints. Many universities tend toward perspectives that may be out of step with the lived experiences of those who are outside of the bubble. This is regrettable and deserves our careful attention going forward.

I value every member of our community. Each voter has a face, a personal story, and hopes for a better future. From any point on the political spectrum it is vital that we don’t reduce each other to some simplistic campaign slogan.

I urge all our community members to see each other in the fullness of each person’s complex identity. Understand that a political position is only one slice of that identity. People can be fairly judged on their actions, but not on their voting records alone. Embracing the call of E Pluribus Unum is a challenging life task, but one very much worth the effort.

Go (ONE) Beach,