On Saturday, May 8, 2021—a beautiful spring morning—we gathered at Truist Stadium (home of the Winston-Salem Dash baseball team) for an in-person and virtual Commencement ceremony to honor the Salem College Class of 2021. I—along with members of the Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, and staff —shared the enthusiasm and the pride of our graduates, their loved ones, and friends who assembled. This was a unique year, a unique day, a unique moment in a journey for many reasons, the most important of which is that we honored our graduates and their accomplishments.
We were extremely honored to have Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones as our Commencement speaker, particularly in these times, when the matters on which she has spent a lifetime are newly visible to us all. Across the past year, we have heard the phrase “it is a moment in a movement” as we have seen again and again moments in the movement that we call the racial justice movement.
We have endured moments of frustration and celebrated occasions of change—and moments in our recognition that this matter is deeply entangled in all that we do and experience. Dr. Jones was, indeed, perfectly situated to speak to our community at Commencement, as a leader whose wisdom matters.
Dr. Jones is a family physician and epidemiologist whose work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of the nation and indeed of all of us. By pointing to racism as itself a public health concern, she ensures that we recognize our call to hope and to act, in this time of COVID-19 and of ongoing racism and gendered racism, to bend the arc of history toward justice—and toward health. She calls us to the public good as well as inspires us to individual growth.
Dr. Jones’s allegories on race and racism illuminate topics that we all must understand, discuss and that call us, as Salem College’s mission does, to change the world. Recognizing that racism saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources, she aims to mobilize and engage all Americans in a National Campaign Against Racism. Among others, she aims to mobilize us—to mobilize Salem.
I hope you will take a moment to watch Dr. Jones’s speech, and indeed the entire Commencement ceremony. You can find a link to the video on our website. The fact that we were able to gather with so many of our graduates in person was a powerful and important experience after more than a year of remote learning.
Best wishes for a happy, restorative summer for us all.