Community message regarding attack on the Capitol — Jan. 7

All people of good conscience who call this country home, or who’ve come here in search of the fruits of its liberties, were surely shocked by yesterday’s events in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in modern history, a lawless mob attacked our nation’s Capitol building to thwart our representatives from confirming a lawful election to peacefully transfer the U.S. presidency from one citizen to another, as our Constitution requires. Equally horrific was the sight of a flag of a racist past waved in the present, carried by the mob through our halls of government.

We are rightly outraged. As the leaders of Maine’s public universities, we also feel a special obligation to speak to this perilous moment about what we might learn together from these appalling realities.

In higher education, we foster learning and civic engagement through critical inquiry, the free exchange of ideas, and honest, respectful dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds who may hold different beliefs – not unlike what we hope for from our political leaders in the world’s oldest democracy. But there’s no guarantee that learning will occur without accepting facts and honoring both truth and respect for those who pursue it. Just as there’s no guarantee our democracy will survive without an educated society’s respect for our laws and the active pursuit of equal justice under them.

In America, we have the freedom to learn and pursue equal justice under law. As Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville observed from his 19th century journey across a young American democracy, “nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.”

No matter how hard it is to learn how to use our freedoms responsibly – our freedom of speech, our freedom of inquiry, our freedom to debate, or even to disagree – we recommit here today that our universities will be safe environments for that learning to take place. We recommit to our role in strengthening our democracy and society through educating all who live here.

Most importantly today, through our work to foster learning about the horrific events we’ve witnessed together, we recommit to being a vital part of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The promise of our democracy remains, as Lincoln himself noted with the fate of the American republic on the line, the last, best hope of Earth.

Dannel Malloy, Chancellor
University of Maine System

Joan Ferrini-Mundy, President
University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias

Rebecca Wyke, President
University of Maine at Augusta

Edward Serna, President
University of Maine at Farmington

Deborah Hedeen, President
University of Maine at Fort Kent

Raymond Rice, President and Provost
University of Maine at Presque Isle

Glenn Cummings, President
University of Southern Maine

Leigh Saufley, Dean
University of Maine School of Law