The Year of Light
Beloved students, I greet you this month at a time when U.S. citizens are being called to look more deeply into the matter of racial inequities. Indeed, these are troubling times that ask each citizen to examine his or her own heart profoundly. It seems that integrating people of African descent has proven to be a greater challenge for the United States than for most other Western nations. Given the flow of the past 150 or so years, most European countries seem to have progressed more quickly than the United States. Of course, the activities of the Ku Klux Klan inflicted a deeper scar in the fabric of the American society than social structures in Europe. Although Klan auxiliaries were formed in Europe, Canada, Mexico, and even New Zealand, their violent and scandalous actions eventually brought about their undoing.
The Klan's underpinnings, however, have provided an influential undercurrent that tugs at some segments of American society even today. Many of you likely remember the Klan's brief resurgence in reaction to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. These were difficult years that, fraught with high costs, confronted the moral face of America. While important changes did take place as a result of that movement, I think the evidence now before you reveals that there is more work needed to bring the American dream to all Americans.
Today, you are once again called to examine the notions of equality and justice and to peer beneath the thin veneer of complacency and denial that so many have nurtured. After all, when it comes to social policy, it is much easier to let sleeping dogs lie, as the saying goes, than to arise to the needs of the time. Yet this is precisely what you are being called to do. Indeed, you have entered a new age, so how could it be otherwise?