Dear Luther Community,
In my message on Monday I asked us, even in the midst of grief, anger, exhaustion, and sorrow in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, the most recent name in a painful history that has radiated across time and space, to begin by listening. I have listened or reached out to student leaders, international students on campus, alumni, and friends of Luther. I have listened to our faculty and staff, standing with them at local protests. I have shared some of my own reading and self-education on social media, and I have been moved by stories of our students and alumni as they speak out against injustice and act as agents of hope and healing in their home communities and places of work. I have heard the many voices that comprise Luther College unequivocally stand against individual and systemic racism in all of its forms and affirm that black lives matter. I stand with you and add my voice to yours. And while I have a particular platform as President, all of us together, from all generations, nationalities, experiences, and backgrounds, are Luther College. The ways we are “being Luther” should inspire us, but also exhort us, and sometimes confront us with the reminder that each of us has a responsibility to lead courageously for the good of the world we steward together.
I have also asked us, after listening, to not stand silent in the face of things left undone. Today, I am writing to you to share some concrete first steps that I and my Cabinet are committing ourselves to over the coming days and months to share in the ongoing work of studying, disrupting, and doing our part to address the disease of racism and to seek justice, equity, and peace. These should not be seen as the only steps. Just as one formal statement will not inoculate us as a community against the need to do more, the initial steps will not complete our work. They will not be enough. As we have been discussing in the Cabinet, we recognize that racism is not an “acute” event to be addressed by a quick intervention and subsequent recovery. It is chronic and it requires sustained and disciplined attention.
There will be opportunities in the coming days, weeks, and months for people at Luther--both on campus and as the broader community of alumni and friends--to live out in demonstrable ways our resolve to harness the energy of this moment and sustain it. As you review the following initial list, consider how you can add to it in your own way, or what you might have to offer to any of these or other initiatives in the generative and imaginative ways I have seen in this community over and over.
Our mission statement declares us as free and emboldened to seek truth and care for all of God’s people. Let us do the hard work together to ensure that indeed all people are liberated and valued.
I send you wishes for safety, for energy, for wisdom, and for courage.
Soli Deo Gloria,
President Jenifer K. Ward