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January 7, 2021

Dear Maxwell Community,

Yesterday’s protest of efforts to certify the will of the American people through the electoral process crossed the threshold from a peaceful expression of free speech to attacking the institutions of democracy in a scene none of us have witnessed in this nation.

Peaceful Americans across the political spectrum have expressed their shock, anger, dismay and sadness at yesterday’s violent mob at the Capitol. I share these sentiments. What began as a protest and devolved into chaos, a breakdown in order, and threats to safety echoes several issues from earlier protests this year—among them a strong emotion for the right to protest and be heard and seen, and mistrust in public institutions and our elected officials and civil servants.

But this is what troubles me most. Protest isn’t objectionable, even if the cause is misdirected. Protest against tyranny and injustice, protest for equity and inclusion, and protest that aims to leave the city better and more beautiful than we found it, are one thing. Rather, it is the conduct of the protest that is objectionable and the complicity of President Trump to support it. Violent protest to overturn state certified election results to retain power is anarchy in support of dictatorship. The havoc they wreaked in a building that is supposed to represent all Americans, the racist flags they waved in those hallowed hallways, the revolt they attempted to carry out is not a legitimate form of protest by any stretch of the imagination—it was an act of sedition. It is antithetical to the very tenets of our American Experiment in democracy that has withstood challenges for over two centuries.

A school like Maxwell educates students from all around the world and claims more than 34,000 alumni in 145 countries. The Maxwell School stands in support of the Constitution, the rule of law, and democratic institutions. We stand in support of the peaceful transition of power. We are committed to democratic engagement, public service, and governance that is peaceful and reveres public participation and civic involvement.

Yesterday’s events should propel each of us to use our voices, our work, our resources and our energies to positively contribute to rebuilding trust in democratic institutions, strengthening rule of law, and bridging the political polarization confronting our nation by ensuring that all people are served fairly.

I am happy to report that our Maxwell faculty, staff and students in Washington, D.C., are safe. I remain optimistic that 2021 will be a more positive year for each of us, and that while democracy is fragile, most in this nation want peace, equality, opportunity, and prosperity and to be treated with dignity and respect. I wish each of you good health and the increased prospects for a constructive and peaceful democracy.

In your service,
David

David M. Van Slyke, Ph.D.
Dean | Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business-Government Policy
The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs