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American University Pres Kerwin Commencement Address on Hate


Delivered on May 14, 2017

Transcript of Dr. Kerwin's Remarks

On this joyous occasion, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the racist hate crime that has shaken our community, and the pain that all of us are feeling. Make no mistake: this was a hate crime directed at African American women, specifically members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated, including AU's first African American female student government president. We will not stand for it. An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us.

Sadly, this was not the first racist act we've experienced this year. We are not immune to the hatred that has given rise to such acts on campuses across our nation. This crime was an assault on the values of our community and the American University that I have had the privilege to be a part of for more than 40 years. As president, it is my responsibility to foster an environment where every student feels safe, and is able to learn and thrive. I regret that my efforts to create such a climate have not been sufficient to prevent this and other acts.

I open this commencement with a statement of commitment: first, the leaders of this university and I will continue working with the United States Attorney's office, the FBI, and the Metropolitan Police Department, and will not rest until we identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

Second, we will work tirelessly to live up to our mission and values. We will seek ways to more effectively address these challenges: holding a mirror up to ourselves, rooting out sources of systemic racism, and looking beyond the way we've operated, with a bias towards action. In the past weeks, in public town halls and face-to-face meetings, we've begun to develop together a list of ideas and recommendations that represent concrete steps to effect change. I know President-designate Burwell joins me in this commitment.

As I look upon the faces of our future alumni and the faculty who helped you arrive at this moment, I see passion. I see resolve. I see leaders. We have an opportunity to create meaningful change on one of the most important issues facing American University, our nation, and our world. I am certain that together, we will rise to this challenge.