Release Date: 
Monday, August 5, 2019

Our diverse community can lead real change

President Kavalhuna

Dear HFC Students, Colleagues, and Community,

As we have seen all too often, there were mass shootings this weekend, killing peaceful people. This time, the shootings happened at a store in Texas and a neighborhood in Dayton, Ohio.

If you are like me, this makes you angry at the continued senseless killing. You may be afraid, or grieving, or you may feel something else.

When we struggle with feelings of outrage, it is tempting to turn to our closest friends and family who see world like us. It may be tempting to be angry toward those who see the world differently. Please reject that understandable temptation. Use these difficult events to build something other than the fear and hate that caused them. There is great power in truly hearing each other. When we are frustrated and angry and believe we have the right answers, it is a great time to exercise the power of hearing others. It is too easy to mistake a high level of passion for a commitment to truth. They are not the same.

I continue to encourage you to seek to understand people who view the world and these events differently than you. Be respectful, and listen to their views. These mere acts of openness toward one another—regardless of our differences—are an effective way to work to stop the divides that cause violence in our society. This may be a time when you conclude that speaking less means saying more.

Together, we can find a path forward that is inclusive and that promotes healing, strength, and safety.

I encourage you to do this on any subject, not merely horrendous events that spark national discussion. Seek opportunities to learn about people who are different from you. Ask them about their world with reflection, not with an intent to debate or to argue. Expect that your respect will be returned through an invitation to open dialog. This might not happen, but your actions can still be influential. People notice when they are truly heard. If you need help to facilitate these conversations, ask a trusted colleague or faculty member.

Conversations with like-minded people are not the places where change happens. Resist the forces in your life that push you to stay in the news-feed that constantly reaffirms your beliefs. Change requires you to seriously consider different perspectives. Change requires compromise and creativity and courage.

The opportunity for meaningful change is one of the core strengths of a diverse community, and it is one of the reasons that I love Henry Ford College and our Dearborn neighbors.

If you exercise the power of listening, hearing, and meaningful compromise, you will surprise people. You may find that change begins. Your influence may exceed your expectations.

If you feel you should take other actions, such as marching, peaceful protests, write-in campaigns, community or civic service, I encourage you to do those things. Actions matter. But in today’s society—where the loudest, angriest voices are treated as the best—what we say and choose not to say matters too. I believe being respectful and listening to each other matters more today than ever.

We are about to begin a new year at Henry Ford College, and we will meet people who need to see the best from us. I encourage you to honor those who lost their lives by opening up to people who see things differently, and by seeking the unexplored common ground. It is up to us to bridge the growing divisions in our world. And we all deserve a world in which we can thrive in peaceful, diverse, safe communities.

Russ Kavalhuna
Henry Ford College