By Dean Christopher P. Long on September 1, 2020 on cplong.org
Dear MSU Class of 2024,
Welcome to Michigan State University and to the College of Arts & Letters!
You are embarking on an education that will forever shape the course of your life.
At the very moment you begin this journey of personal transformation in your life, we are living through an intense period of transformation in our society. The pandemic has caused us to move this semester online to protect the health and safety of our community. Our physical distance, however, diminishes neither the enthusiasm with which we welcome you to MSU nor our commitment to connect you to one another, our faculty, and the resources you need to be successful.
In the midst of this pandemic, we also are reckoning with a legacy of anti-Black racism that must be redressed through intentional action. The education we aspire to provide in the College of Arts & Letters is designed to be an education for action. We seek to cultivate the intellectual, ethical, and emotional capacities that will empower you to create a more just and beautiful world.
This summer, we lost John Lewis, intrepid leader of the Civil Rights movement, a powerful voice for non-violent transformative change. John Lewis stands as a model to us all as a person who put his core commitments to love and non-violence into action in everything he did. In a New York Times op-ed published after his death, Lewis wrote:
“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the beloved community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
A world at peace with itself is one in which the values we espouse are woven into the fabric of the communities we create. The vital work of building a society at peace with itself requires the cultivation of ethical candor, a commitment to being honest with ourselves as we seek to live up to the values that animate our lives. In her book, Eloquent Rage, Brittany Cooper emphasizes the importance of ethical candor in the current moment of reckoning with racial injustice when she writes:
“We can neither heal nor fix that which we will not confront.”¹
The liberal arts education on which you embark this semester is designed to help you develop a conscience of character that will enable you to confront the ways complicit racism legitimizes structures of oppression. An education for action in the College of Arts & Letters draws on the creative power of the arts to imagine more just ways of being together; it exposes you to new languages and cultures that invite you to interrogate the beliefs you have inherited; it opens you to the power of writing and to a wide diversity of literary characters, narratives, and ideas that give your actions integrity and depth.
Each of you brings a unique set of experiences to the world building work this transformative moment of change opens for us. We need your creative energy and commitment to intentional action to meet the demands of the current moment.
We can’t wait to get started. Welcome home!
Dean Christopher P. Long