My heart is full today. I am overflowing with the hope and fear, the optimism and apprehension that I have not allowed myself to feel these long months, not until the moment when I saw the words I had feared to hope for: “Barack Obama has been elected President of the United States.”
It’s not just those words that fill me today with such deep gratitude. No, the hope swelling in me today is being generated by you. It is coming from every Mills community member who packed the Student Union last Tuesday night to bursting as we watched the election returns come in; everyone who impacted this election in a multitude of ways; every community member who turned to another last night with tears streaming. As my 10-year-old daughter, Gaia, looked out at all of you, she could clearly see the leader that she will become reflected in the leaders that you are today. I deeply thank each of you for that.
As head of the Institute for Civic Leadership (ICL), I have long been accustomed to viewing Mills as a community of leaders, of women and men and gender queer folks committed to action as opposed to apathy. However, even in our community of engaged, active citizens, I have been disheartened of late to feel a growing sense of division, something within the culture of Mills that I have not been able to quite name or define or to call out. As the sole staff member of ICL, I have felt myself increasingly isolated within our community, increasingly challenged to build and reinforce the bridges essential for moving us together towards a more perfect realization of the vision we hold for Mills.
Last night, my dear friends, I felt those bridges firming and I came to realize that it is not I who can or should be their architect. It is we. It is we who must more clearly articulate the visions we hold for our institution. It is we who must seek more creative means for translating those visions into a more supportive, dynamic and inclusive community-here at Mills and beyond into our nation and the world. It is we who must utilize our leadership capacities to insist upon wider opportunities to grow and deepen those capacities. The politics of our time demand it. The challenges of our nation require it. It is up to us. Yes we can.