Welcome Message from the Dean

As I approached 2134 G Street earlier this week, our neighbor, Principal Trogisch, was greeting students on the first day of classes at School Without Walls. He was wearing a sporty blazer and tie, reached out to shake hands and have a word or two with each kid, and conveyed a wonderful optimism about the new school year. Tomorrow, GSEHD students will return, and though I would prefer to greet all 1600 of you along with our great faculty and staff, I’m afraid there just won’t be enough time. Please accept my apologies for this digital hello.

It’s that time of year when I am reminded of the greatness of our system – the end of summer, the restart of our academic engines, the reaffirmation of America’s bedrock faith in schools and schooling. The ritual is familiar and always inspiring.

And yet – this year things feel different. We welcome our community back just two weeks after the nation and world watched aghast as a group of vile and villainous white supremacists sullied the University of Virginia green with their messages of hate, their Nazi salutes, their racist and antisemitic tropes, and their terrorist violence. May the family and friends of Heather Heyer find comfort from her memory.

It is hard, even for a congenital optimist like me, to not feel depleted by those images and the reactions of our president. Luckily, though, I am back from a restorative visit to parts of the American west, where I saw up close and personal the beauty of our country – protected by decades of enlightened federal environmental policy that sadly may now be undone – and the strength of our people, many of them struggling but stalwart in their allegiance to community, their love of the land, and their belief in the promise of our democracy.

We will emerge from the nightmare of Charlottesville and what it represents, but it will require guts and grit. Complacency and compromise are not options. As James Murdoch (son of Rupert) wrote to friends to explain his $1 million donation to the Anti-Defamation League, "vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation."

As summer ends and we resume our routines of work and learning, let us hold our heads and hearts high, send greetings of love and support to our friends at U. Va., and work together to ensure that bigotry and intolerance, implicit or overt, have no place here.

For the courage we will need, let’s remember what our first and truly great president (initials GW), wrote to the Hebrew congregation of Newport in 1790: “… the Government of the United States…gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance … May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.” Amen.

--Dr. Michael Feuer, Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, The George Washington University