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April 20, 2021

Post-Verdict Reflections

Dear St. Francis College community,

On May 30, 2020, I shared a brief set of reflections on the killing of George Floyd. Today a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of all three counts in the killing of George Floyd.

As we reflect on this outcome, and as we reflect on the many acts of violence we are continuing to witness, I ask each of us to think deeply about the ways we can be living examples of love, mercy, and compassion. In my May 2020 message, I said "when many of us are left to wonder how our neighbors feel...we know we haven't gotten proximate." This is a critical time in our nation's history. And, our nation needs people willing to be courageous, forgiving, compassionate and, promoters of peace and all good.

For some of us, the Gospel provides us with guidance. As I see it, the Gospel in action requires us to speak to and about injustice and inequality and importantly, requires us to go where people are suffering, where they are hungry, where there is violence, and where there is poverty.

I say repeatedly that the focus of our daily reflections should be firmly placed on the interrogation of self. That is not to say that we don't need to focus on the social ills that are a predictable byproduct of the institutions and structures that shape our neighbors and us. While concentrating on the interrogation of our social structures and social policies is essential, we cannot overlook the importance of investigating the ways each of us lives up to and fails to live up to our espoused commitments and values. Being an agent of peace, mercy, and compassion is difficult. But someone has to do it; our Franciscan values suggest that we are in fact called to be those agents.

In my inauguration speech, I asked us to imagine a College committed to educating and forming its members so that they all strive to be peaceful, contemplative, intellectually astute, joyful, compassionate, creative, courageous, and service-focused Warriors. I used "Warrior" intentionally. The world is in desperate need of exemplars who are willing to sacrifice, willing to take risks as they challenge us to live up to our value-based commitments, and who recognize the importance of accepting full responsibility for creating conditions where all people have the opportunity to live a dignified life. We should let our compassionate and moral imagination lead us so that we can honestly say that we did our part to ensure that the arc of the universe does, in fact, bend toward justice. It is time to become historically aware and brave enough to confront the truth of the matter by remaining maladjusted to injustice as we emphasize that a commitment to the Gospel requires us to speak to and about injustice. The world needs this more than ever.

I believe what the world needs now are living examples of people who strive to live lives of loving service to themselves and to others. I believe sincerely and optimistically that St. Francis College can be a living example of what it means to aspire to live in a beloved community. I can only hope that I will find the courage and fortitude to do my part at this point in the College's history so that we may be beacons of hope not only for those who come into our space but even for those beyond our walls.

Echoing W.E.B. Dubois, I sign off with a "hope not hopeless but unhopeful."

With you in prayer,

Miguel Martinez-Saenz, President

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