Memo to the Concordia Community from President Donald Christian:
Saturday afternoon, as I was leaving East Austin, I saw community members gathered across I-35 in protest of the death of George Floyd – yet another black man senselessly killed. This protest, on top of the recently released video of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, was what Minnesota Governor Tim Walz called “a manifestation of generations of pain.” As I navigated my way across 7th Street and onto the feeder road of the highway, I experienced a hurt that cut me to the core, as I wept for my brothers and sisters who live with this pain day after day, month after month, year after year, and generation after generation. As I got on the highway and began driving north, I glanced behind and vowed at that moment to write this piece to our Concordia community, not knowing exactly what I would say.
In a few short weeks, the buildings and grounds of Concordia University Texas will be filled with students and employees – something that has been sorely missing the past 10 weeks. I know that when I walk across campus I will see many of our students and employees who feel and experience these generations of pain. As a school with a majority non-white student body, we have more than an individual duty to reach out and care for people of color within our community – we have an institutional duty. While I do not yet know the full impact of what that means, I am fully confident that we, as an institution of Lutheran higher education, will do so in a manner that reflects our values and mission. We will be a community that takes seriously:
- Being Christ-Centered: as an institution where Christ is honored and all are welcome, we will ensure that those who have been marginalized by society are acknowledged and respected as full members of the community, feeling honored and valued at all times.
- Caring for People: knowing that our students and employees of color carry with them the generations of pain, we will create the space for people to speak of their own pain.
- Living Out Vocation: being called to engage in critical thinking and deep dialogue, we will welcome voices that challenge all of us to think differently, using those platforms to help support our students and employees in pursuit and engagement of their own meaningful work.
- Being Life-Long Learners: knowing that there is still so much to learn about diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice, we will push our community to consider truly what it means to be an institution whose student body is majority non-white.
- Practicing Trust: when having difficult conversations, we will extend grace and call each other to account, living out Maya Angelou’s quote, “I did what I knew how to do; now that I know better, I do better.”
- Acting Courageously: having a voice in both the community and the church, we will speak up for our brothers and sisters who carry with them the generations of pain and all who find themselves marginalized within society.
In the months and years ahead, I will drive on I-35 and, as I cross over 7th street, I will always be reminded of what I saw the afternoon of May 30, 2020. That place, for me, will be a memorial to those whose generations of pain came to a head that day and to Concordia’s commitment to helping ease – or perhaps even end – that pain over time.
As I participated in online worship yesterday, Pentecost Sunday, I was reminded that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of God’s people to bring about change. May God grant all of us the willingness and the ability to change – both individually and institutionally. As President of Concordia University Texas, it is my charge to ensure this happens. I pray that you will join me on this journey toward a future that looks different from today.
Dr. Donald Christian
President and CEO
Concordia University Texas
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