Processing the Events of January 6, 2021

John R. Finnegan Jr. | January 7, 2021

Dear SPH faculty, staff, and students,

After the events of yesterday, January 6, 2021, will be among the dates indelibly etched into our memories. “Disgraceful. Outrageous. Surreal. Shameful.” Those are just a few of the epithets used in yesterday’s media reporting. As we all are processing what happened, I have a few thoughts.

If you know the history of the United States, you know well that paranoid politics, political and election violenceracist violence, and discrimination against all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons are not new. The nation itself was born in violent revolt against a colonial power and, ever since, we have struggled with that legacy of violence, as historians have observed.

What was new yesterday, was the nation’s President publicly inciting a riot to overturn the will of  the majority who voted him out of office. The mob accomplished nothing, except humiliating our country. The rule of law, constitutional principles, and common morality mean nothing to those who incited and carried out this violence. But for the rest of us, they are life vests.

I believe the overwhelming majority of Americans reject the actions on display yesterday. But we cannot be naive about the health of this democratic republic. What occurred yesterday was sobering: Our nation appeared fragile and unsure of itself. Building a bridge to the future we want will be hard work, as always. Events such as yesterday’s can discourage, or they can give us the strength and resilience to persevere on the long road ahead. We get to choose. On that road, we will find many of our fellow Americans, if we look, listen, and learn. Principles of democracy — however imperfect — prevailed yesterday amid the chaos. I take heart in this, and hope that you will, too.

In two weeks, a new President and Vice President will be inaugurated and will begin working with the new Congress. I also take heart that they will provide real leadership toward the promise and hope of improving the health and wellbeing of us all.

Take care of yourselves and stay safe and well!

John R. Finnegan Jr.
Dean and Professor
School of Public Health

p.s. In the past year, we’ve experienced many traumatic events. Resources are available to staff and faculty, as well as students.


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