Dean's Message: Changemaking at Home
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
The following post was contributed by Patricia Márquez, Dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.
We promote changemaking at home by acting in the present, setting ambitious goals for our future, but without ever losing sight of history’s achievements and keeping in mind the lessons and the mistakes of our past. As we begin the month of February—Black History Month—the words of Mr. Eric K. Ward (Executive Director of Western States Center in Portland) spoken last week are on my mind: “…This is a moment when we need to understand that life in 2020 in terms of racial justice, while incomplete, is better than life was in 1920, and certainly better than in 1820. We need to celebrate what our ancestors have done to get us to this point, and we need to carry this burden to ensure that next generations are able to sing their own song.” As we double our commitment to build peace with justice, let’s keep in perspective all the changes that have been achieved. Recognition and celebration should actually warn us against resting on our laurels. At the same time, facts are fact. Many events of the last 12 months make it clear that systemic change is urgent to maintain a true democratic, peaceful and just society.
Eric K. Ward speaking during Democracy for All of U.S. on January 28th
To address this need, the Kroc School is adding fresh programming this year focused on “Change at Home.” We believe the challenges we face today as a society — from the pandemic to growing inequality to persistent racism to threats to our democracy such as voter suppression — require us to take a hard look at our own country. Two new initiatives, the Democracy for All of U.S. speaker series and the Activist-in-Residence program, invite innovative changemakers to share their ideas and stories with the USD campus, the San Diego community and beyond. Perspectives such as these on what’s happening in this country and why, and their proposals for change, are important voices in our national dialogue.
The need for change in this country feels urgent. The first Democracy for All of U.S. event, “Democracy After the Tempest: Reimagining and Recommitting,” featured the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice’s Executive Director Andrew Blum leading a conversation with Sara Jacobs (Congresswoman from San Diego), Nikuyah Walker (Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia), and Eric K. Ward (Executive Director, Western States Center, Portland). With more than 600 people signed up to a virtual platform to hear their thoughts, these three fearless changemakers discussed their views of the present situation with a sense of what the future could look like, offering along the way potential courses of action for strengthening democracy at home. Some changes entail complicated negotiations and decision-making by leadership in government. And while we may feel far away from those governmental spheres, each speaker reminded us of the power we each hold by voting and reaching out to politicians and representatives. Other suggestions were as simple as building a greater sense of local community by talking to our neighbors more.
Kroc is a School of peace and justice. As such, we are driven by our mission of equipping and empowering innovative changemakers. Our new Activist-in-Residence program is designed to support the careers of activists at the vanguard of addressing systemic injustices and entrenched inequalities in the United States. While at USD, the invited activists will have the support to deepen their intellectual inquiry through writing, engaging with students and faculty, and catalyzing research and positive social action on campus, within the San Diego cross-border region and throughout the United States.
With a sense of the work ahead of us, I begin this month of February celebrating Vice President Kamala Harris’ tremendous achievement of being the first woman—and a woman of color—to make it to the White House. This is an incredibly exciting and inspiring moment on a journey preceded by centuries of women fighting for equality and justice. Those people cut a path that has now gotten us to this point. It’s upon all of us to continue that road work, making the path we are on into a huge highway easily transited by all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.