Recently, I wrote to Chief DiFava and several members of the MIT Police Department. I wanted them to know that I have been keeping all police officers in my thoughts and prayers. I told them, as I will tell you, that I know that this is a difficult time for all of us. And judging by our numbers here today, and by the intensive conversations that we have shared, I also know that it has been extremely hard for us to continuously witness, even from a distance, the tragic deaths of innocent men and women, often black men and women, as well as, the deaths of police officers committed to their profession. Officers who were fulfilling their duty to protect and serve.
On this latter point, I would like to make a declarative statement, but in doing so, I acknowledge that I am taking a liberty – a liberty that will enable me to attempt to speak for most Black people— and speaking for most (not to mention all) Black people is not something I take lightly — but today, I take this liberty because I truly believe that I stand with most when I say that as Black people, specifically, we believe that what happened in Dallas was wrong. It was heart breaking. It was a grave injustice in the wake of so many others. And most of us would not only agree with Dr. King’s words; we would espouse them as our personal beliefs — “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Clearly, feelings of helplessness, hurt, anger, and rage have been expressed here today. Feelings that many of us in this room have been concealing and holding in for far too long. These feelings are genuine and in many ways unavoidable and certainly undeniable. We need and deserve time to grieve. Life, however, has taught me that if we stay in a state of helplessness too long, it can and will cloud our vision, our perspective, and our reality. Because in reality, we, as individuals; and certainly we, as the MIT community, are not helpless. For MIT is renowned in name, many in numbers, powerful in presence, and virtually unparalleled in our capacity to solve the world’s greatest challenges. In fact, often when it comes to solving the world’s greatest problems, the world looks to us. In the space called problem-solving, MIT sits in a unique and often unrivaled position.
So MIT family, I do not believe that we are helpless, because only a University, with a President who is confident in its ability to positively impact and influence social, political, and economic change, would challenge itself…its students, faculty, staff, and its graduates to Make a Better World. And as a nation, I do not believe that we are incapable of rising above our current state. We can seek peace. We can implement legislation, policies, practices, and a level of democratic and community policing that will not only heal our land but increase trust and create an environment that ensures safety and security for all.
So, today I urge us, not to give into the darkness (of doubt and fear)…instead let us embrace the light that shines so brightly within each of our hearts and minds. For, it has been said that, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us”1; and that light my friends…that life-giving, life-changing, infinitely powerful, and brilliantly-fueled light is not just in some of us. It is in each and every one of us.
So, we must boldly and responsibly shine our lights. We must carry our torches, our lanterns, our beacons, and our lightsabers. We must carry them as symbols of hope and use them for good. For they will be a lamp unto our feet – illuminating the pathway that will enable us to truly see one another, to respect one another, to love one another, and to stand together as one…to stand together against injustice, intolerance, and hatred. Our lights must shine so bright, that others will not only see our Great Dome in Killian Court, but they will see our good works, and they will be inspired to pick up their torches as well. And finally, we must use the power of the light harnessed within us to eradicate the darkness that attempts to cloak individuals and systems that perpetuate racism, oppression, and violence against any group. MIT – We have been called for such a time as this. We are the chosen. We are called to Make a Better World. I will do my part. Will you do yours?
1The original quote has been attributed to several different people, e.g., Marianne Williamson, Nelson Mandela, and Maya Angelou.