Dear School of Music Community,
Yesterday, our nation bore witness to the fragility of our shared democracy. What should have been a formality, a procedural certification of an election won by 7 million votes, was transformed into an assault against our most foundational institutions. Yesterday, we learned that if you are a white protester, you can storm the United States Capitol with impunity. Yesterday, we witnessed a violent mob, filled with resentment stoked by our current president, shout and threaten violence as they tried to “stop the steal.” Yesterday, I was shocked and I was dismayed, but sadly, I was not surprised.
Yesterday, in celebration of the results of Georgia’s senate elections, I planned to send peaches to my friends to honor those who worked so hard to turn out the vote. Black women and their allies worked tirelessly to ensure that the right to vote would be respected and that their votes would be counted. Yesterday, we also witnessed a different vision for the future. In a historic moment, the state of Georgia welcomed its first African American senator. Yesterday, I also had moments of pride and hope.
At the School of Music, I have observed the practice of democracy at its best. Here, 98% of our marching band voted while members of our Anti-Racism Action Committee devoted themselves this fall to a campaign focused on inspiring their colleagues to vote. It’s this bright spirit that I will celebrate, savor and love during these tremulous times. May these guiding lights reinspire us all.
Democracy depends on conversation and discourse. Democracy depends on nonviolence, and a shared understanding of facts and reality. Democracy calls us to hone the ability to not only listen–but to also hear and reflect upon–views different from our own. In that spirit, I look forward to welcoming our esteemed guest, Cornel West, as he joins our associate dean and colleague, Arturo O’Farrill in conversation for the inaugural event in our Still Waiting speaker series on January 7, 2021 at 3 p.m.
I invite our communities at The Herb Alpert School of Music, UCLA and beyond to keep the spirit and heart of democracy alive. For it is discussion, compromise and collective care for the most vulnerable among us that will imbue and animate our democracy with hope. May we move forward together, inspired not by yesterday’s display of hatred, but by the hope embodied by yesterday’s victories in Georgia. For while we wait, we must act.
With Hope and Gratitude,
Eileen L. Strempel