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November 6, 2018

A Message from Lehman College President José Luis Cruz
November 6

Dear Campus Community,

If your social media feed is anything like mine, it is overflowing with messages urging you to vote tomorrow. You are most likely being implored to exercise your civic duty to influence the ideological and political issues of today and honor the democratic struggles and personal sacrifices of the past. These are, of course, valid reasons to go to the polls. But I believe they only move from valid to powerful when viewed through the lens of our individual lived experiences and the aspirations we have for ourselves, our families, and our nation.

Last month, I traveled to Montgomery, Alabama — a city whose official seal cements its place as both the “Cradle of the Confederacy” and the “Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.” During my stay, I had the privilege of visiting the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The museum is built on the site of a former warehouse where hundreds of thousands of enslaved black people were imprisoned. The memorial pays tribute to the thousands of African Americans who were terrorized and murdered by lynching.

As you may imagine, there is no way to visit these sites and walk away unmoved: you are forced to confront centuries of hatred, bigotry and abject disregard for human life. You read each marker for the thousands of blacks who were lynched and learn why they were brutally murdered — some for raising their voice in public, some for perceived slights against whites, and some, for merely attempting to vote.

And so it is that expressing yourself in the ballot box becomes suddenly more urgent than ever.

Because you realize that the fear mongering, dehumanization, hate crimes, gerrymandering, and purging of voter rolls that dominate our live news feeds are present-day virtual representations of very real threats to the quality of our present and future lives and the health of our democracy.

So tomorrow, as you consider whether or not you will vote, I urge you to reflect on the following quote from Maya Angelou, which I saw painted in bold, vivid type on the side of the Legacy Museum: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."



Previous messages from President Cruz can be found here.