President Eduardo M. Ochoa sent this statement to all students, faculty, and staff on Jan. 8, 2021.
Like many, if not most of you, I watched in horror as live news coverage of the counting and recording of the votes of the US Electoral College by a joint session of Congress was violently halted and switched to the seditious mob outside storming the hallowed halls of the Capitol. The same chambers and hallways that I walked in awe of and in reverence during my service in the Obama administration were desecrated by invaders waving Confederate flags and shouting slogans of hatred, white supremacy, and paranoid right-wing conspiracy theories. Our elected officials, under siege, were forced to evacuate the House and Senate chambers. The hopelessly outnumbered Capitol Police were attacked, one of them dead after being hit over the head with a fire extinguisher. Four other people died. An inexplicably weak presence of security forces was deployed, in stark contrast with the outsized forces marshaled against Black Lives Matter protests in months past. Hours went by as the rioters meandered about the building and gradually started to leave under the gentlest of prodding by security personnel with very few arrests. These images will be seared in our memories, as we witnessed the first violation of democracy’s house since the British-American War of 1812.
But this was not a foreign army. These were some of our fellow citizens, fed a steady diet of misinformation and conspiracy theories, deluded into thinking they are patriots. And on Jan. 6, they were directed and encouraged by our own President into these heinous acts, a President unwilling to accept the results of an election in which the people had spoken. The damage to the soul of our nation, our image in the world, our own sense of who we are or aspire to be, is incalculable. And at the same time, almost unnoticed, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to surge, reaching 4,000 dead in one day, more than died in 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. The mind reels, the heart breaks.
But there are other positive forces at work, and I am confident that they will prevail. The runoff elections in Georgia were carried out without incident and with enormous turnout. The defeated candidates conceded. The Congress, undeterred by the hooligans who delayed their session, reconvened and performed their constitutional duty. The Biden administration continues to announce competent, experienced women and men to fill the senior positions of our next government to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
We have a tremendous task ahead in restoring a unity of purpose and the ability to have rational, civil discourse to solve our nation’s problems. We can take pride in the culture and values of our university community that guide our sacred work of education and take comfort in the fact that we are part of the solution and not part of the problem. We will need to redouble our efforts as a university community to contribute within our sphere of influence to the healing of our nation, and I know we can. Please know that we are together in this and that I love and appreciate all of you.