Somehow, it seems fitting that 2018 is departing on a soggy, gray day…. good riddance to a year of endless rain in the east, wild winds and wildfires in the west, weird weather everywhere and harbingers of the climate change disaster that looms over our small planet. In Washington, the rancid politics of the moment leaves a bad taste and nasty odor, plunging federal workers into a period of uncertainty and unfair worry, tarnishing once bright reputations among people who tried to serve this country in an administration that seems ungovernable, let alone capable of governing the nation. The standoff over “The Wall” is a metaphor for the paradox we face at the clock strikes midnight: how much necessary compromise on the issues is a good and worthy objective, or does compromise mean capitulation? We yearn for diplomats and deal makers, leaders who know how to thread their way through opposition and controversy to achieve what’s best for “We, the People” who are the real government of our nation.
The new year begins with new leadership in the United States House of Representatives, and Trinity takes rightful pride in the considerable achievement of Speaker-of-the-House-designate Nancy Pelosi, Class of 1962, who is in line to receive the Speaker’s gavel once more when Congress votes on Thursday, January 3. No woman except Nancy Pelosi has ever been Speaker of the House, a distinction she won in 2007 in her first election as speaker. No Speaker has been re-elected to the position after a time out of office since the legendary Sam Rayburn in 1955. Speaker Pelosi has the experience and savvy to change the dialogue in Washington for the better.
Speaker Pelosi will take office this time in a moment that verges on a national crisis. The government is in a partial shutdown mode; the humanitarian crisis at the border is growing; climate change is an urgent issue, but so are other issues: protecting the hard-won gains of healthcare reform, addressing the utterly immoral proliferation of guns and the violence that our gun-soaked culture endures, tackling the vexing immigration issues sensibly and with a sense of respect for the human beings that are caught up in nightmares often not of their own making, particularly the young undocumented Dreamers. So much is on the agenda, and Speaker Pelosi will have to use all of the lessons she’s learned in more than 30 years in Congress to find a pathway through to solutions, good compromises and lasting legislative achievements for our nation. We pray that she will have the strength and wisdom to help lead our nation through the current turmoil to a better place for all.
Closer to home, Trinity will be starting 2019 with much joy and excitement. On Friday, January 4, we will welcome Speaker Pelosi for a Town Hall with MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid, a marvelous opportunity for our students to dialogue with our sister alumna about the critical issues on her agenda.
Immediately following the Town Hall on Friday morning, we will be racing over to the Trinity Center to put the final touches on plans for the 2019 Winter Commencement that takes place on the evening of January 4. We have a wonderful group of graduates from all programs, and the ceremony will be festive and full of joy. Don’t miss the wonderful stories of some of our newest grads published on my prior blog.
In the year ahead, Trinity will be launching some wonderful new ventures. We have just received funding from the Mellon Foundation to create the Trinity Global Leadership Initiative and I will be sharing much more on this as we start the spring 2019 semester. We have some great news of much progress in our Nursing Program and Masters’s in Occupational Therapy Program, and other ideas are percolating for academic initiatives across our five schools. We are looking forward to starting planning in earnest for a major renovation of Alumnae Hall — a project that will take a number of years to complete, and will require a big capital campaign, but something that we all know will be very exciting and certainly welcome. We are starting to think about that 125th Anniversary of Trinity’s founding — August 20, 2022 will mark our 100th birthday! — so lots to do as we think about that festive moment.
Even as so much is going on at Trinity, we look to the community beyond Michigan Avenue and constantly ask ourselves what more Trinity can do to be of service. We are having discussions with the D.C. Public Schools about some initiatives that will strengthen our partnerships, and we are also working with some area charter and private schools to develop some additional programs. Our colleagues in the School of Education are also doing some extraordinarily important work on Adverse Childhood Experiences and they are planning a major symposium in April to present research and foster dialogue on solutions.
We also know that Trinity’s leadership in women’s education and advancement is vitally important for our city and nation, and following-up on work we did during the fall, we are planning a symposium on the topic of sexual violence and the #MeToo movement. The program will include an opportunity to consider next steps for the Catholic Church as the clergy child abuse scandal continues to rock the faithful.
Amid all of our many plans and activities, in the year ahead the most important thing we can do at Trinity is to stay faithful to the ideals that have been our bedrock for more than a century: to uphold human dignity and treat all people a worthy of respect and affirmation; to promote the idea of social justice as a central commitment to action for those who are on the margins; to advance opportunities for education and leadership for women and men who share these values, who want to leverage the power of a Trinity education to make good and lasting change in their communities, nation and world. We do all of this inspired by the courage, wisdom and faith of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who had the best idea ever when they founded Trinity, and whose commitment to our ideals in education, social justice and faith empower our progress each day.
Happy New Year to all!