January 7, 2021
Dear Colleagues and Friends of the World Affairs Councils of America:

On January 6, 2021 – the deadliest day of the pandemic in the United States with 3,964 COVID-19 fatalities – the nation and the world bore witness to another shocking American tragedy: the violent assault on our democracy, institutions, and the U.S. Capitol building that represents our republic.

What will make this day live in infamy was that none other than the President of the United States himself tapped into the anti-democratic bent and rhetoric he has unleashed for more than four years to incite a mob to perpetrate acts of domestic terrorism. Having declined during the election campaign to commit to the peaceful transfer of power on which our democracy rests, President Trump has consistently and vociferously refused to accept his electoral defeat. Nor did he and too many of his enablers inside and outside Congress condemn yesterday’s disgraceful attack on the values we cherish because their seditious aim has been to subvert a presidential transition.

The World Affairs Councils of America is deeply saddened by the leadership malpractice that has stoked divisions and eroded confidence here and abroad in the rule of law, a free press, and our common democratic cause to form a more perfect union.

The example of our Constitution and principles of governance has inspired individuals and groups around the world to fight for equality and democratic freedoms to build better societies. The iconic image of the Chinese man standing before a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989, a day after Beijing began crushing pro-democracy protestors, resonated with the American people and tarnished China’s image for years because he literally stood for what we stand for.

Now, China and other adversaries are already making the most of the horrifying and shameful images of the failed January 6 coup at the seat of the U.S. government. This, on the same day that Hong Kong police arrested 53 officials and activists, for their involvement in the city’s legislative elections, under the national security law imposed by the Chinese government last summer. Those detained are bereft, for the time being, of a human rights beacon here.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
-- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

WACA’s mission is to expand civil discourse inclusively – including with individuals with whom we disagree, for this is the practice of democracy – to wrestle with ideas, perspectives, and policy decisions so that an informed public will engage responsibly in national and international affairs.

As we approach Martin Luther King Day and Inauguration Day in less than two weeks, we are mindful of our staunch opposition to the incitement and enabling of violence against our fellow human beings and institutions. We stand together with organizations that respect diversity and uphold the values of our democracy.

With hope,
Bill Clifford
President and CEO