November 13, 2019
As the OWU family comes together for the One OWU Gathering of Unity and Support today, I find myself reflecting on the fractures in our social order and what it means to speak of One OWU.
In recent years, we have seen growing expressions of hatred and division within our society. Those expressions find voice in the anonymity of social media, in the rallies held by hate groups, and in the deeply divisive rhetoric of elected leaders. Most recently, an outside group has come on our campus placing stickers promoting its repulsive propaganda. The FBI describes this group as being “tied to a neo-Nazi Racially Motivated Violent Extremist ideology.”
My own emotions run high when learning this group has inserted itself here at OWU. Emotions ranging from anger to fear to bewilderment have been expressed by many and reflect my own initial feelings. These are appropriate responses, though I might add these are just the responses that organizations like this seek to promote. They look to create division and sow seeds of discord. They want chaos rather than order. They seek to cloak their own profound insecurities in a blanket of self-righteous superiority finding its most grotesque expression in various forms of white supremacism and other racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiments, and numerous other hate campaigns.
I am deeply grateful and proud to note that on the OWU campus their presence has had just the opposite impact. Their visit here has surfaced a different set of values; values that have the power to unite rather than to divide, to heal rather than to hurt, to affirm rather than to reject, to build rather than to destroy. Rather than chaos and division, their brief stop at OWU has led to unity and support.
These values are deeply embedded in OWU. We are a community that has long appreciated the presence of difference while at our core this diverse community is one. When we speak of One OWU, we speak of a community that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. But more than valuing these principles, we understand them to be a call to action. They call us to the never ending pursuit of civil rights and social justice for all people.
That work is far from complete, including here on campus. While our values are strong, our human frailty means there are times when we fail to live up to our values, with some on campus feeling the benefit of diversity and inclusion more than others. There are times when our own words and actions are hurtful and marginalizing.
We have work to do in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have work to do in response to the call to civil rights and social justice.
When we say we are One OWU, we commit ourselves to that work.
When we say we are One OWU, we affirm the dignity of every human being.
When we say we are One OWU, we stand in solidarity, working to ensure that the strength of our solidarity is shared by all, most especially by those who are marginalized and who are the direct targets of hate.
When we say we are One OWU, we celebrate the beauty of a community enriched by the presence of individuals who experience life in many different ways, with diverse talents, identities, and expressions of the human experience.
When we say we are One OWU, we acknowledge that we are better because we are not just alike.
When we say we are One OWU, we note the unity that binds us together in our differences. We think, we vote, we worship, we dress, we dance, we play, we love, and we see the world in different ways.
And yet, we are One OWU. Because we believe that difference is a strength. We believe that respect is a virtue. We believe that love is the better way. That’s why we say Hate Has No Home Here.
Today this is profoundly visible through the One OWU Gathering of Unity and Support. I am grateful to those who have planned this gathering, and I am grateful to every person on campus who every day lives the values of our University and our commitment to One OWU.