Dear Colleagues and Friends:
History is unfolding before us in ways that are shocking, violent, and fast. I write to offer my support to those within the VCCS family who are concerned of what may come after last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol – a reasonable and understandable reaction. I get that. I support you, and you are not alone.
More importantly: we need you if we’re ever going to set things right.
January 6, 2021 was a wake-up call for every one of us who works in education across our nation.
My parents’ generation would refer to this as a Sputnik moment. That successful October 1957 launch of a Soviet satellite immediately placed a priority on the teaching of math and science in classrooms across America. The attacks of 9/11 challenged us to better prepare students in a world being made smaller by the forces of trade and technology. The Virginia Tech shooting – just like one a decade before at Columbine High School – made it clear that more must be done to protect places of learning.
Those who would violently attack our government, the one that Abraham Lincoln described as “The last, best hope on Earth,” because of a lie show us just how much work remains before the noble mission of Virginia’s Community Colleges, and of education in general, is realized.
Lately, we have taken to counting degrees and credentials earned as indicators of our success. Those are important but insufficient metrics.
When so many people willingly embrace a false reality and ignore the verifiable results of a free and fair election, we have challenges. When so many are willing to stand and march with Nazis and white nationalists, we have problems. And when those people attack and kill law enforcement officials on the steps on the U.S. Capitol in an insurrection, we have a crisis.
So, what comes next for us?
It’s not easy but I hold out hope for 2021. Vaccines are on their way to us. So too is the potential for a national unity borne of political renewal. And I’m mindful of what English theologian Thomas Fuller wrote in 1605: “It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.”
I hold out hope because of you, my friends and colleagues, who commit yourselves to the difficult and selfless work of helping individuals earn the skills and knowledge they need, not just to support themselves and their families in great careers, but to play the valuable roles we need for our communities to thrive – like coaching their girls’ basketball team; organizing a charity drive at their place of worship; volunteering for community service and yes, even campaigning to serve in local office. Do not let the chaos of this moment make you forget that education (the critical thinking abilities to consume, process, discern, and share factual information) is the foundation essential to making America work.
We have a lot of work to do, and I can’t imagine a better team with whom to do it.