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Finding hope during difficult times

May 31, 2020

To the Dartmouth community,

As we begin the last week of classes, we are preparing to send our newest graduates into the world and celebrate their accomplishments and their promise.

At the same time, we recognize the sobering realities of the world that they are poised to enter. The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health of our communities and has sent our economy reeling. The unrelenting march of climate change threatens the lives we lead, with particular impact on the most vulnerable among us. And we are exhausted by partisan efforts to limit equity, diversity, and inclusion on our campus and within our society more broadly. As daunting as these and other issues may be, they are ones that we can work together to resolve.

Which brings me to what may be the most consequential issue facing our world today. The forces that seek to divide us, the voices that sow bigotry and hate, are strong and loud at this moment. Racism continues to be a stain on our nation. We are outraged by deplorable acts of violence against black men and women, such as  the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. And by the less visible structural forms of racism that lead people of color to disproportionately shoulder the burdens of poverty and inequality as has been so strikingly evident in the higher incidence of illness, job loss, and death they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.

At times, what we face  can seem overwhelming. But there is much about our work at Dartmouth that gives me hope. First and foremost, our collective resolve that racism, bigotry, and hate have no place on our campus or in our society.

We are resolute and united in this belief. Second, I am heartened by the impact that Dartmouth alumni--and our students who will soon join their ranks--are having in bettering the world using their keen intellects and the values honed over their years at Dartmouth. And finally, I am lifted by knowing that our faculty and staff every day advance the frontiers of knowledge as they take  on these great issues of our time for the collective good.

As we look forward to the conferring of degrees on June 14, let us not despair at the challenges our newest graduates will face. Instead, let us redouble our efforts to build a world that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive, free from racism, bigotry, and hate. Let us give voice to the values that unite us rather than divide us. No threat is too grave if we face it together.


Philip J. Hanlon '77

Last Updated: 6/1/20