In the midst of a great tragedy – the recent loss of nine precious lives in Charleston’s beautiful and historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church –love and forgiveness have permeated the lives of South Carolinians. It has been amazing to watch as an overflow crowd of diverse citizens gathered in that place less than a week later to worship and come together in grief and unity. To watch as tens of thousands held hands across the Cooper River Bridge in a show of solidarity – to show that evil will not triumph.
We at Wofford College are saddened by this tragedy, by the loss of life as well as the loss of humanity in that evil act. At the same time, we continue to celebrate the diversity, creativity and unique blend of tradition and progressive thinking that represents the city of Charleston and the state of South Carolina. Events such as this reaffirm the importance of the state’s colleges and universities. Education includes encounters with people and experiences that push us beyond our levels of comfort and knowledge, and we must commit ourselves to embracing those differences, learning to respect all people and finding common ground. That’s who we are. That’s who we should always be.
Now we are seeing even more transformation in South Carolina because of this incident. Gov. Nikki Haley and others have called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
I join them as well as others in academia around the state in urging our state’s leaders, who are the only ones who can make this change, to make this happen.
It is incumbent upon us – especially those of us who are educators – to affect change that embraces the wonderful diversity and vibrancy that is South Carolina. I see it every day on Wofford’s campus – students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds coming together to learn, to teach, to collaborate, to have fellowship.
We at Wofford stand ready to lend our voices to this effort and to help heal the wounds that time and events have created. We stand ready to facilitate the conversations among our own campus community and beyond. We stand ready to support those who will do what is right for South Carolina; indeed, what is right for our nation.
Nayef H. Samhat
President of Wofford College