Nonviolence as the Highest Form of Humility

As 2014 comes to a close and we celebrate this season of reflection, giving, and gratitude, I and so many across the country are reflecting on the impact of continued violence, and the work we must do to truly have a peaceful and just society, especially for our children.

Just two weeks ago, we recognized the anniversary of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We mourned with the families of the 26 people who lost their lives, and we celebrate and support those who have vowed to continue the battle to pass meaningful and reasonable gun laws in this country. We thank Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly for leadership in the fight to keep America safe from gun violence.

The grand jury decisions in the cases of Mr. Michael Brown and Mr. Eric Garner not only ignited protests throughout the county, they ignited peaceful protests and meaningful dialogues on college campuses across the country including our Wheelock College. Students - white and of color - are demanding action to make social justice real, and they are asking that change begin on our own campuses.

In the last few weeks, campuses, including Wheelock College, have been engaged in deep and meaningful dialogues about social justice, institutional racism, and the impact of diversity and inclusion on our campuses and in our society. Students are seeking greater understanding and real change beginning on our own campuses. I am proud of our students - white and of color - who are raising challenging and deep issues about what is happening to students of color inside and outside of our classrooms.

I am humbled by the immediate and quick action from faculty and staff to create safe and honest dialogues on these sensitive, complicated, and deeply rooted issues that require us to look honestly at our core believes and long held stereotypes. Conversations are serious, real, authentic, and heartfelt. I sense a real opportunity for us, in our own communities, and in our nation to make significant progress - which holds the promise of sustained and meaningful change.

I thank the faculty and staff who urgently responded with sincere commitment to engage in dialogue. I thank the hundreds of faculty across the country who, with honesty and courage, wrote the powerful letter "We Hear You" to our Black students. I thank the college presidents and administrators, who quickly acted to support our students and faculty in their right to peaceful protest and the call for meaningful and safe conversations. I acknowledge with gratitude the many trustee and alumni groups who encouraged our institutions to face these issues. And I offer our most sincere condolences to the Brown, Garner and many families who have experiences senseless violence.

In early December, a colleague shared this quote from Daisaku Ikeda: "From a healed, peaceful heart, humility is born; from humility, a willingness to listen to others is born; from a willingness to listen to others, mutual understanding is born; and from mutual understanding, a peaceful society will be born. Nonviolence is the highest form of humility; it is supreme courage."

My wish for 2015 is that we are a more peaceful society.