How to Rise to the Moment
A comic strip during my youth popularized the term “triple whammy,” which referred to a group of three problems or calamities that arose at the same time. It seems to me that 2020 has presented Grinnell College and its alumni community with a triple whammy.
First, after a highly regarded and successful 10-year run, President Raynard S. Kington decided to pursue new challenges as head of school at Phillips Academy Andover. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Grinnell to transition to distance learning in the spring and to reimagine its physical and educational plans for the 2020–21 school year. Finally, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd, among others, triggered the greatest outpouring of protest and anger over anti-Blackness and police violence since the late 1960s.
The entire Grinnell College community — students, faculty, staff, and alumni — need to respond to the issues raised by Black Lives Matter and related protests. We will need to do so in the midst of a transition to new leadership in the president’s office. We will also need to move forward without many of the physical gatherings we have traditionally used to promote healing and develop solutions.
“Grinnell College will tackle the tasks ahead in a manner true to its tradition of social responsibility and its focus on providing the finest possible liberal arts education to its students.”
My Alumni Council agenda for the coming year has evolved dramatically because of the events of the past few months. At the broadest level, the Alumni Council will continue to seek ways to support the College in its educational mission, to engage alumni and friends in that effort, and to act as a bridge to facilitate communication between Grinnell and its alumni body. However, the methods by which we pursue that mission will be altered by changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council will have to adapt and will seek your advice and assistance in that effort.
At a time when very few certainties exist, I am highly confident about several things: Grinnell College will tackle the tasks ahead in a manner true to its tradition of social responsibility and its focus on providing the finest possible liberal arts education to its students. It will do so in a way that protects the health and safety of every member of the Grinnell community, and the Alumni Council will do its best to support the College in those efforts.
During my time at Grinnell, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on campus in 1967 about “Remaining Awake During a Revolution.” Sadly, distractions, complacency, and the passage of time have led too many of us to fall asleep in the intervening years. We are now presented with another watershed moment, another moment of “revolution.” Please do your part to help Grinnell College and the Alumni Council stay awake and aid the efforts to make lasting change in the future of our nation. Despite the pandemic constraints, let us all join together in that work. Please help to turn the triple whammy of 2020 into a pivot that moves all of us in a new and more enlightened direction.