On our democracy

Dear members of the Johns Hopkins community,

I watched with horror, as did so many of you, the tragic, sobering, and unfathomable scenes of violence that unfolded earlier today at the U.S. Capitol.

In a day that should have been dedicated to the quintessence of our American experiment, the peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to the next, a ritual solemnly observed through war, economic depressions, disease, and civic discord, we instead witnessed an appalling and deplorable attack on the iconic citadel of our democracy.

And as distressing as the scenes of violence were, equally so were the odious and jarring images of vile hatred that we cannot ignore: unfurled Confederate flags, a shirt mocking Auschwitz, a large hanging noose, and a gruesome reenactment of George Floyd’s callous murder.

We cannot, and must not, erase this sad moment from our collective history.

But we can take from it the charge to double and redouble our commitment to the democratic spirit that has shaped our country since its birth. The norms and institutions that define our democracy are so difficult to build but so easy to deform and damage, which is why communities like ours must continually join in the hard work of embodying democratic values of open and respectful dialogue and dissent, that are peacefully engaged and effectively harnessed, in service of the common good, of opportunity, of justice, and of human dignity.

At a time when democracies around the world and at home seem more fragile than we ever imagined, universities like ours have no choice but to renew our commitment to keep the idea of democracy alive, vibrant, and strong.

I have never been more grateful to be part of this extraordinary university and to be able to imagine and to do better with all of you.


Ronald J. Daniels