A message from Dean Douglas Elmendorf

To the Harvard Kennedy School Community,

Criminal trials are meant to be moments of accountability for those accused of committing crimes. The trial that just concluded in Minneapolis is a moment of accountability also for this country, for the world, for the Kennedy School, and for each of us as a member of our society. 

For hundreds of years, discrimination and violence based on race have cost many Americans their “rights … [to] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” in the stirring words of the Declaration of Independence—words that were not applied to all Americans at the time of the Declaration’s drafting and have not yet been fulfilled for all Americans. Recent events have further underscored the sickening impact of racism and the policies and structures that perpetuate it. Many people in this country live with anger and grief for what has happened to them and their loved ones because of their race, and many live in fear of what might happen in the future to them and their loved ones because of their race. In other countries as well, hatred based on race and ethnicity has taken away many people’s lives and done indescribable damage to others’ lives. 

But these conditions are not immutable, and we should not accept them. On the contrary, I believe that people who are committed to justice, and who have the skills and knowledge to generate change, can reduce racism and make the world better. At this moment of accountability, let us all strengthen our commitments to opposing racism and advancing justice, in our own circles of activities and in the impact we can have on public policy and public life.

The recent shootings and other violence directed at Black people and other people of color—and the horrifying pictures and videos of those actions—have imposed significant trauma on many members of the Kennedy School. If you are seeking community now, I encourage you to join the Community Connection Space being hosted tomorrow at 4:15 p.m. by the School’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. If you are seeking other sorts of support, please turn to our program directors (for students), Human Resources colleagues (for staff and fellows), academic deans (for faculty), or other resources that are available.