How Do We Move from Yearning to Action?

Students, Faculty, and Staff:

At the very heart of a university lies its mission: to pursue truth. At Valparaiso University, we intentionally bring people here from different backgrounds, belief systems, and cultures to join in our common pursuit of truth. This requires us to hone our critical thinking skills, to learn to disagree with respect, to find ways to live and speak across difference, even as we break bread together at Founders Table, to live amicably in the residence halls, to play together as a team, and to learn side-by-side in the classroom. As a community of learning in the pursuit of truth, we seek to model for one another and for the world what it could be like to live in a community of love and mutual respect.

This has been an important and challenging week in our pursuit. In light of recent events in Ferguson, Mo.; New York; and Cleveland — profound events that have engendered national unrest regarding race relations and the state of civil rights in the United States — I am reminded of another challenging time in Valpo’s history when former President Alan Harre said, “so long as even one member of this community lives in fear of others, we will not be worthy of the name community.” To this I would add, we cannot achieve our vision at Valparaiso University when anyone in this community feels that one’s life doesn’t matter. Every life matters. And we must instill in this community and those who graduate from it a yearning for justice, for equality, for dignity, for respect for all people. We must provide our graduates with the tools to effectively advocate for and realize the changes in both church and society that transform yearning into action.

Advent, these weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, represents a time of yearning for Christians, a time of making room for Christ’s coming in our hearts and in our lives. Christ came to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and the set the prisoner free. Might we use this Advent to also be a time of preparation, of making room in our lives for our sisters and brothers who cry out in anguish and yearn for justice? Might we make room to be changed?

In this Advent spirit and as we look to the beginning of a new year, I challenge each of us to resolve to make 2015 a year for engagement and dialogue across difference. Let us commit to cross that chasm of difference that too often separates us, to learn from each other, to embrace both our common humanity and our differences. On Wednesday evening this week, a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff gathered together to begin this important work. Let us use the new year to acknowledge, confront, and reconcile our differences with dignity and respect through open forums, conversations with peers, and class discussions. Let us work as individuals and in community to turn our yearning into action. Let us make room to be changed.



Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D.