By Mary Dana Hinton
I was heartbroken to learn of the signs in St. Joseph near the St. Ben’s campus and in St. Cloud near the SCSU campus. My concern was not only as the president of the College of Saint Benedict, but also as a resident of St. Joseph and as a parent.
While I imagine that the timing of the signs was an intentional effort to divert attention from the thoughtful celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) day, I think it would be misleading to suggest that a single event or week triggers such vitriol. I believe the signs were intended to cause harm to groups within our community, to divide and to damage. Attempts to silence and harm various groups — women, people of color, the impoverished, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, the list goes on — are not new. We cannot passively accept or tolerate this targeting of anyone or dismiss these events as sporadic or merely reactive
What happened last week was a profound and compelling call to be the community we say we are. When one person is harmed in a community, we are all harmed. At the MLK event on Jan. 15, I opened with a quote from King that speaks to this: “In a real sense all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”
I truly believe we are all interconnected, whether it is within or between our campuses or with the local or regional community. Our fates, our success and our futures tie together. So even if you do not see yourself among one of the groups targeted, your community is still targeted.
The fact that there are people who choose to sow division, who choose to believe that by virtue of their identity they are better than others, who choose to ostracize, who choose to live from a position of hate, is an issue throughout the world. We are not immune. It is an issue that we must decide how to address every day on our campuses.
It is not these things that happen that will ultimately define us as a community; it is how we choose to respond to them that will matter most. So, what do we choose? Do we choose to reach out to one another and say, “I see you. I hear you. I’m here for you.”? Do we choose to advocate passionately for another? Do we choose dialogue and conversation? Do we choose to address these real and central issues of our time and then intentionally choose to be better? To do better?
I choose to make clear our priorities and commitments to being an inclusive community, the community our Catholic and Benedictine mission calls us to be. I choose to help build a community that uses its resources, strategies and collective effort to be better, to do better, for every person we encounter. I choose to ensure that we are prepared to respond swiftly and without equivocation when challenging events do happen. But I
cannot do any of this alone. Every person on our campus has to decide how they want to shape our community and then work together to ensure we all feel valued, as we are and for who we are, in order to contribute to
accomplishing our collective mission.
The recent messages, and all hate-filled actions, are designed to create fear and distress. But my joy, my hope, my purpose and my family are inextricably linked to this community and I choose not to allow those who thrive on hatred take any of those things away from me.
This is the opinion of Mary Dana Hinton, CSB President