The first in an occasional series from the dean.
March 24, 2020
This is a somber and anxious time, and it may be of some comfort to you to suggest that this is what history looks like from the inside out. I’m asked a lot whether the current crisis is something I’ve seen before, and I want to tell you this is indeed new. This toxic combination of growing personal vulnerability, social menace, and broad economic fragility is nothing that has happened in my lifetime. If you’re scared it’s because you’ve been paying attention.
Fine, what now? For starters, you’ve got to keep it together. That’s a personal matter, and I hope I’m not being presumptuous if I offer some thoughts.
First, remember the goal: It’s to stay centered, focused, humane, effective.
Second, your obligations to friends and family deserve tending. They’re not distractions; honoring them with love, care and compassion is at the core of who we are. And those obligations are even more deserving when structures outside are shaking.
Third, discipline creates order. Make rules that work for you and stick to them. Controlling your private world can be deeply satisfying when there’s disorder in the public one.
So what now? Work can be a tonic, and we’ve got work to do. We at the School—thanks to the initiative of professors David Barstow and Geeta Anand—are launching a broad journalistic response. It harnesses our passion to inform and illuminate to the efforts of the world’s most powerful news organization, all to empower people to handle whatever comes next. Others of you have taken on projects of your own with the same objectives in mind.
You’ve all spent a good deal of time training your minds to unearth and explain complex realities. Now you have a new challenge: To operate in an environment of deep uncertainties and unknowables, where the people you serve demand clarity, and deserve no less.
To borrow the last words of the 20th Century radical Joe Hill, “Don’t mourn, organize.”