We have come a long way; we have miles to go

I am a community builder by nature and by choice.  My greatest satisfaction is to bring people together for a purpose.  When I see the coming together, particularly after a long struggle to make it happen, it sometimes moves me to tears.  I cried watching President-elect Obama’s acceptance speech to a huge multi-racial audience, more so when leaders who have fought long and hard for this day, like the Reverend Jesse Jackson, appeared on the screen in tears as well.  We have come a long way. 

Nevertheless, I know that we are not home yet.  We still have miles to go.  I lead a university that is on its way to becoming a fully inclusive community.  Every year we bring in a new class of students from every part of Minnesota and beyond.  They bring with them all the attitudes they have learned in their hometowns.   We engage our students in honest, hard conversations about race in order to help them understand the forces that have shaped our society and encourage them to accept their responsibility to help our communities become places where all can pursue their own dreams in safety.

Now we will have those conversations in a new context, a context that includes an African-American U.S. President.  We can now dream of a different world for our children with evidence in hand that real change is possible.  I am hopeful but also sobered by the breadth and depth of the challenges ahead.  The greatest of these challenges will be to set aside old stories, old predictions and old methods to choose a new way of acting in this new world of ours.  It will not be easy but nothing worth doing ever is and no goal is more important than this one if we are to live together in a global community.

Published in the Jan. 22, 2009, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.