Like many of you, I watched in horror as the U.S. Capitol was temporarily overrun by un-American men and women who committed nothing less than domestic terrorism.
Violent rioters and insurrections have no place in the halls of the Capitol, just as lies and the intentional spread of disinformation have no place in our democracy. It’s quite shameful that it took such an egregious assault on our republic for some to recognize the damage that the stoking of hate and gaslighting of bigoted fear can cause.
There was no gray area in what we saw. There were not “good people on both sides.” There were courageous leaders — Democratic, Republican and Independent legislators working to carry out the will of the people in a centuries-old tradition — and those with bad intentions, obstructing the democratic process and, in effect, inciting violence.
While the disruptors succeeded in delaying the certification of electoral college votes, they ultimately failed to derail the democratic process. The courage and resolve of our national elected officials in returning and working into the night to certify the presidential election results were commendable.
For many years, civic engagement has been a pillar of a Salisbury University education. On campus and off, my predecessors and I have seen students and alumni do amazing things to better their communities, from dedicating themselves to the causes in which they believe, to representing their constituents as elected office holders at the local and state levels.
Now more than ever, I encourage our community to follow their example. The path to meaningful change is not disrupting democracy with dangerous and illegal actions like those we witnessed yesterday, but instead using the rights inherent to every American to enhance our country by working within the democratic process.
Often, that starts with civil discourse and an open mind. I ask our faculty to support those meaningful interactions. In the endeavor to broaden perspectives, a persuasive conversation is a much stronger tool than an act of aggression.
In the past year, the SU community has seen its share of adversity, from cowardly acts threatening the safety of our campus to a pandemic that has added new dimensions to the educational process. Yet, we have endured.
On every occasion, our students, faculty and staff have risen above the challenges they faced, replacing acts of hate with those of love, and finding opportunities in new ways of learning that were unthinkable just months ago.
Now, the nation must seek out that same endurance. Hate cannot win. Bigotry cannot be tolerated. The truth must prevail.
On Jan. 6, we proved that our democracy is stronger than those who wish to return to a less equitable time in American history. We must join our fellow citizens and others in persevering toward a country of tolerance and civility. The alternative is too painful to imagine.
Dr. Charles A. Wight is President of Salisbury University.