Like so many of you, I am numb over the violent events of the past week. So many thoughts, so many things I would like to say, but alas, no words come. Today, the President of MIT posted a letter on the MIT homepage (web.mit.edu). His words give voice to many of my feelings. The actions proposed in the letter make me proud to be a part of the MIT community, albeit a retired member. I am re-posting excepts from his letter for those who may not have access to the MIT site.
To the members of the MIT community,
Summer scatters us. As our country again suffers incomprehensible tragedy and violence — in Minnesota, Louisiana, Texas and more — I would like to draw us together, across oceans, borders and time zones, so we can mourn together and reflect on how we can respond. We begin with compassion, connection, listening and kindness. . . (An invitation to participate in a community event next week and a reminder of the counseling and support services available to MIT students, faculty, and staff.)
. . . I know I am not alone in believing that caring for each other is a fraction of what the moment requires. The terrible images on the news overwhelm us all with pain, fear, outrage and perhaps worst of all, a sense of helplessness. That these events are unfolding in such an overheated political season only magnifies the concern.
Injustice, racism, mistrust, suspicion, fear and violence corrode the foundations of a healthy society. We cannot stand as observers and accept a future of escalating violence and divisiveness. I believe our leading civic institutions have a responsibility to speak clearly against these corrosive forces and to act practically to inspire and create positive change. In this time of need, the MIT community has an opportunity to offer service of great value to our society, to our country and perhaps to the world by applying our unique strengths to the problem at hand.
I have asked Vice President Kirk Kolenbrander to bring together all the voices in our community early this fall, to consider the most effective ways for us to help address these problems and to explore how we can best contribute to progress. I hope we can draw on wisdom from every quarter, from the student leaders who demonstrated such determination and clarity this year, to the MIT Police, to those faculty whose research centers on justice and inclusion, to all of us eager to help right the ship of our society. . .
We are one community, “One MIT,” united in serving a single mission, which includes bringing knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges. Our community contains wide differences in background, culture, class, race, religion, language, profession and life experience. We do not all think alike, and we are not afraid to disagree. Yet at our best we strive to ensure that there is a place at the table and space in the conversation for everyone. E pluribus unum. Let us draw on that strength now.
I hope you will join me in answering this call for the country and the world we serve.
L. Rafael Reif
I wish I could participate in those conversations in the fall. For now, I know that we are united in prayer.