If you listen carefully to the opening remarks honor graduate Angela Anderton made for our
virtual conferring of degrees ceremony
last month, you will notice she used the process of breathing as a powerful metaphor in order to tell her story and to establish the context for the unusual nature of this particular ceremony. We were celebrating the academic accomplishments of our spring 2020 graduates in the midst of a global pandemic.
Many individuals with COVID-19 remain asymptotic or face mild symptoms for a few days. But for some, moderate symptoms become severe quite quickly as the virus descends into the respiratory system exposing the body to secondary infections and robbing other organs of the oxygen needed to function. The disease is having a disproportionate impact on African-American and Hispanic families and communities.
On Monday, May 25, George Floyd died while in police custody. He was robbed of his last breath by an officer who pressed his knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. A bystander captured the killing on cellphone and shared it with the world. George Floyd died utterly alone crying for breath, crying for his mother -- and with millions watching at the same time. It is not the first video like this we have seen. I fear there is much work to do before we reach the last.
Our mission calls us to provide a transformative environment for the individual and the community -- and I think in our forty-five year history there are numerous examples of how we have done that. At this point in time, I believe we are being asked to examine ourselves, an institution we care about, and a community we call home for the systemic and structural inequities that deny many of our colleagues, students, and citizens access to the notions of justice, freedom, and peace we claim to hold dear.
I am not certain of all we need to do, but I am certain that we need to move forward. I would ask that you allow me to walk with you as I invite you to walk with me.