Release Date: 
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

While grieving renewed attacks, we can build a culture of connection

President Kavalhuna

Dear HFC Students, Colleagues, and Community,

We are once again faced with the aftermath of a terrorist attack directed, in part, at people gathering in their houses of worship. Hundreds were killed and wounded in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, which is the holiest day of the Christian year.

I stand with you who are struggling to make sense of a world where terrorists target peaceful people of faith.

On that very same Easter Sunday, I spoke to the congregation at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit. My topic was the lessons of leadership, and some of the concepts I discussed are relevant and influential in what we are seeing around the world.

The first of the seven Unitarian Principles is “the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.” The sixth Principle is “world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.” These principles will sound familiar to you. They are shared by many people of various faiths and by non-religious people of good will. They are deeply important to us at Henry Ford College.

We have an opportunity as an educational community.

We can be the role models who light a new path for tomorrow’s leaders. We can resist the growing view that the people who are the loudest, the most aggressive, the angriest, and the most self-aggrandizing are today’s “winners.” When people around us call others names, attack others, and mock others, we can provide a dissenting, strong voice for support and inclusion. We can share this voice on social media, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, and especially on our campuses.

We can, and must, work toward a world in which respect for others – perhaps especially those with whom we vigorously disagree – is among our highest values. We must recognize each other as fully human, valuable, and worthy of dignity. We must no longer attack each other. At our College, we can demonstrate the universal truth that what divides us truly pales in comparison to the humanity that we all share.

As you struggle through the same pain that I feel seeing this Easter’s attacks, keep in mind that what you say and do makes a difference. The extra effort you make to extend friendship to those who are different from you, to be engaged and vocal in your solidarity with them, matters more than you know.

Do not let anyone diminish your resolve to work toward a better world. Do not be discouraged by people who would use weapons and hate. Be optimistic. Be a leader. Make our campus better every day by living our values of teamwork, civility, and good will. Cultivate the skill of effective listening by asking questions. Show your fellow students and colleagues that you care enough to listen.

There is great power in truly hearing each other.

Keep in mind that there are things you can do to maximize your personal safety. If you need to speak to someone about Sunday’s events, please reach out to our Counseling Center for confidential, caring assistance. If you are an employee in need of this help, please contact HR about our Employee Assistance Program or other resources.

Again today, we can honor those who have been attacked and those who have lost their lives by working to defeat hate, while building an unshakeable culture of connection and respect at Henry Ford College.

Russ Kavalhuna
Henry Ford College