To my fellow students,
I am concerned for the future of our republic. Not because of who our next president will be, but because I have seen so many Americans across the many social media platforms proclaim that our next president will “never be [their] president;” and because those Americans whose candidate lost have absolutely condemned those whose candidate won—close to 60 million individuals—because of just one of their actions: the single vote they cast for President of the United States.
Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of the United States of America.
Yet, would that opening paragraph have to be altered if the previous line read “Hillary R. Clinton will be . . . ?” Unfortunately, I do not think that a single word of the opening paragraph would have to be altered. Regardless of who won, America is a starkly divided nation.
But that is not to say that our divisions are insurmountable or that we have never overcome similar obstacles before in our still young nation’s history. If my assurances are insufficient in providing comfort, I recommend that you take some history courses here at Jewell; I am positive that you will encounter times in which people did not need to speculate about any persecution that might come their way because of its immediate presence in their lives, and times in which the masses overthrew the political order, not with votes, but with bloodshed.
So, with a little historical perspective, hopefully some people will be more confident that our differences can be overcome. The healing begins with having uncomfortable conversations. You, white fraternity man from Overland Park: listen when that girl with the rainbow pin on her backpack goes on and on about what you have allowed to be called “locker room talk;” she had hopes that progress would be made against rape culture and now she has good reason to think that there might be several steps taken backwards. She watched the videos that portrayed some of the things that Trump rally attendees said and she wept alone in her dorm room, for herself, for some of her friends and for her family, all recently descended from immigrants. She is scared. You, Latina whose issue of primary concern is LGBTQ rights: don’t write-off the white guy who sits in the back of the classroom when he finally contributes to class one day and speaks out against increased immigration. Maybe he’s not a racist, chauvinist, xenophobe; maybe he’s just terrified that he won’t get a job after he leaves Jewell, that he will be saddled with crippling debt, and that he’ll never be able to provide for his girlfriend, whom he plans to marry. He has been forced to confront something that he has never confronted before: fear. He’s scared, just like you are. Listen to each other! Democracy dies when the dividing aisles of legislative houses become sound-proof barriers.
When we join the ranks of the esteemed alumni of William Jewell College, we will also be joining the ranks of the more educated members of our society. With that position in society comes a certain civic responsibility: to serve in the vanguard of the republic. Clearly, considering the results of the election, the political order that vanguards past had established and maintained and that the current vanguard tried to maintain has now been largely rejected by the people. If the vanguard does not adapt to the changing political landscape, the opposition to the “establishment” will only become more fierce, if not violent, risking outright revolution. However, if the the forces of unadulterated populism are permitted to bend the political order to their will, I fear that chaos will ensue. In either situation, liberal democracy is prone to be replaced with illiberal authoritarianism. That is what we, as future members of the vanguard of the republic, must guard against at all costs.
Have hope! America is not known for her pessimism and apocalyptic proclamations do very little to resolve issues. Reread “On Liberty,” go have an uncomfortable conversation and save our republic.