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Upholding Democracy

William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe sent the following message to the campus community Jan. 8, 2021. - Ed.

Dear William & Mary Community,

Since before the founding of the United States, William & Mary has sought to advance democratic principles and practices. It is why we call ourselves the Alma Mater of the Nation. For centuries, those in our community have served this nation, as presidents, legislators, jurists, members of the armed forces, diplomats – and in countless other roles, many of which have gone unrecorded. Along with our nation, I watched in sadness and anger as insurgents invaded the U.S. Capitol in a direct attack on our democracy and an attempt to sow further distrust of our democratic processes.

Today, I write with resolve, to underscore the crucial importance of our mission as a public university in sustaining democratic ideals. In the daily practice of respectful disagreement and debate, we affirm human dignity and sharpen our collective understanding. In the passion for evidence-based argument, we condemn misinformation and uphold high standards for truth, equity, and justice. With creativity stoked by diverse experiences, expertise, and perspectives, we grow together as informed and service-minded citizens. Democracy requires growing up and into these values and practices. 

As we have learned throughout this past year, the test of our governing institutions is not how they operate in easy times. We learn how resilient we can become as a community not during periods of prosperity, but by upholding one another’s humanity in times of deep conflict and loss. This community will rise to the challenge, sustaining our tradition of service to the principles that ground this democracy.


Katherine A. Rowe