September 9, 2019
Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff:
The start of the new academic year is a time of rejuvenation, and I enter every fall semester with the thrill of possibility. This year was no different.
In fact, I saw that possibility in full flower late last week when I joined an extraordinary group of city and community leaders and Johns Hopkins’ neighbors and employees in Johnston Square Park. We were there to mark the expansion of the Johns Hopkins Live Near Your Work program, which offers grants to our employees, many of whom now rent but want to own a home in the neighborhoods where they live and work.
It was a glorious Baltimore morning, and not just because of the clear blue skies and crisp air. The atmosphere of Johnston Square Park was also infused with the palpable energy, optimism, and determination of all those in attendance. These were people dedicated to not simply imagining a better future for Baltimore but realizing it—one house, one block, one neighborhood at a time.
This spirit of possibility was apparent when Regina Hammond, a community advocate and a leader of Rebuild Johnston Square, and others, shared stories of the seeds of hope that had been planted in the neighborhood. They talked about the park that had become a central gathering spot for parents and children; a maker space that offers classes and puts tools in the hands of community members; St. Francis Academy, a school that was founded to teach enslaved and free young women of color and that continues to extend educational opportunity to so many today; and the numerous restored houses that are ready for new owners eager to put down roots in the neighborhood.
As I stood among our neighbors that morning, I was reminded of the words of the late Canadian poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen that I’d heard earlier this summer: “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
At a time in our broader world in which so many cracks remain visible, I left Johnston Square with a renewed appreciation for the ways that we—as individuals and institutions—can and must work to amplify the light at every turn.
Indeed, our university shares, and is buoyed by, this animating spirit with every question we ask, every new scientific inquiry we pursue, and every new project we undertake, no matter how complex. Whether you are keeping the university running smoothly, tackling a significant research endeavor, or working with our communities, this ethos guides the efforts each of us undertakes and the partnerships we forge across our campuses and across our city. And I am truly grateful for the ways in which every one of you enacts this spirit on a daily basis.
I look forward to all the ways this community will work together—with one another and with all who live in, work in, and love this city—to magnify the light again this year.
Ronald J. Daniels
Johns Hopkins University