News at WilmU

A Message from President Dr. LaVerne Harmon

We know the facts: On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, an African-American man, died during an arrest when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for approximately nine minutes. Mr. Floyd’s death was ruled a homicide when a medical examiner reported that his heart stopped when he was restrained and his neck compressed.

Was this a wake-up call?

I wonder if this tragic incident was different from the senseless deaths of countless other African-Americans who died similarly and made up a shamefully long list. Were hearts and minds changed when Trayvon Martin was killed, or Tamir Rice, or more recently, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor?

Were those also wake-up calls?

I would like to believe that the incredible outpouring of support for Mr. Floyd signifies hope and change. The overwhelming majority of those who protested his death did so in peace. They were people of varied ages, races and religions who marched together in the name of justice. If we are to instill positive change, we need to be united in our quest to end racial bias. We must find compassion within us to understand and respect our differences.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” I mourn the death of George Floyd and all those who were taken so violently and needlessly. We will never know the contributions they may have made to make the world a better place.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a commonality among people of all nations. It has not discriminated. As terrifying as the disease is, it has forced us to rely on one another and realize that every life matters. That is a lesson for all of us.

I speak on behalf of a University that has valued diversity since its inception more than 50 years ago. We aspire to live our values every day by respecting each other, allowing integrity to guide our choices, and providing opportunities to all who seek a quality education.

Let us move forward with dignity and build a future that unites rather than separates us.

Dr. King believed in the power of love, and so do I.

Perhaps Mr. Floyd’s tragic death truly is a wake-up call.

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