A post-election gathering for students, faculty and staff at the Middlebury Institute to discuss the results attracted more than 300 people to the Holland Center Courtyard late Wednesday afternoon, offering all an opportunity to share thoughts, observations, and hopes for the future.
The open session was sponsored by the Student Council and announced earlier in the day by Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Institute Jeff Dayton-Johnson. In his invitation to the gathering, Dayton-Johnson urged the campus community “to grapple with our presidential politics with the appropriate mix of rigor, candor, compassion and mutual respect—like you always do in the face of important issues big and small,” adding that that he is “certain that the Middlebury Institute will be—as it has in the past—a lively center of debate and discussion of the next administration’s policies, and that people across the country and around the world will look to us to understand these issues better.”
Addressing the gathering, Dayton-Johnson said a learning community is the best kind of community and Student Council President Stephen Doolittle added that, for an institution with “international” in its name, it is especially important to talk about issues related to diversity and understanding. Doolittle described the event as a time to recognize the concerns and emotions of others, and that it was “our time to discuss, to be one, and for all voices to be heard.”
“Such a beautiful group of people,” said one student who said she felt lucky to belong to this community. She added, that “a lot of people felt silenced by this election. We must never think that we do not matter because we do, and it is our responsibility now to do our part to make it better.” A nonproliferation and terrorism student said that her greatest takeaway from this campaign was the power of words, and that we have to realize that we too have the ability to harness the power of words in our work. Another American student commented that “I understand now that I'm going to have to fight harder than I thought for the kind of country I want.”
International students talked about their love for this country. “I could have decided to study in any country, but I picked this one because I fell in love with the compassionate people who have shown me such kindness,” said one. A survivor of the devastating earthquakes in Nepal said this country is filled with wonderful people who, like the people of Nepal, can deal with difficult situations. “We have to stay strong and stand tall like the Himalayas.” A student from Africa told of strangers stopping in the street to help him when he first arrived in Monterey, and assured his classmates that “We know who you are. We know your hearts.”
In sharing a variety of viewpoints on the election’s outcome, all showed compassion and expressed their deep appreciation for an international community of people willing to engage in passionate and respectful dialogue. A staff member said “Gatherings like this are one of the reasons I love this place.”