Imagining our Nation’s Future this July 4th
Chancellor Block sent the following message to the UCLA campus community.
Dear Bruin Community:
Saturday is the Fourth of July, a day usually celebrated with parties, parades and fireworks. But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the recent reminders of our nation’s unhealed racial wounds, the holiday will certainly feel different this year.
July 4th is an opportunity to reflect on our nation’s triumphs and on its tragedies, the accomplishments for which we are grateful and the failures which we must correct, how far we have come and how far we still have to go to make the ideals of our nation a lived reality for all.
With the benefit of hindsight and humility, what are we to do with the declarations that “all men are created equal,” of the proclamations that our nation would secure the blessings of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” or the promises that our government would give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance?”
Some may be inclined, understandably, to reject these phrases as self-delusion at best, or cruel lies at worst. But I think we can make better use of them. We can see them as dreams we are determined to transform into reality. If they are not declarations about our past, they must still be the obligations of our future. Maybe they are not proclamations of what we have achieved, but aspirations that we are dedicated to achieving. Not descriptions of the nation we have inherited, but prescriptions for the nation we will create.
Maya Angelou taught that “history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” History, with all its complications and contradictions, is an essential teacher. Nations can learn from mistakes, take inspiration from successes and try harder to become better. The American experiment — the dream of a just, honorable, multiethnic republic — is not finished. It remains fragile and resilient, it needs our compassion and our courage, it demands honest self-reflection and bold imagination. The American experiment is not finished. It is in our hands.