Following violent events that took place in Charlottesville, Yale Class of 2021 pens a power letter in solidarity with the students of Virginia.
To the University of Virginia Class of 2021,
The Commonwealth of Virginia holds as its motto Sic semper tyrannis—an abridged Latin phrase that translates directly to “Thus always to Tyrants,” but can be rendered as “Thus always I bring death to tyrants.”
In its benign abridgment, the motto was spoken as a call to liberty by both the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War and the man who made it the state’s motto—founding father George Mason. In its alternate interpretation, it was announced by John Wilkes Booth upon shooting Abraham Lincoln and printed on Timothy McVeigh’s T-shirt the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
Now, as events in your city lead us to look to this phrase once more, we ask ourselves what freedom means, what it demands, and what it allows. Though modern America is not afflicted by the reign of tyrants, this past week has shown that our freedom can be threatened by other means. The Virginia motto captures the delicate balance between freedom and oppression—a balance that has been tragically upset over the past few days in Charlottesville.
We at Yale proudly stand with the students of UVA and, in the spirit of our own motto Lux et Veritas, hope to join you in seeking the light and truth that can transcend this penetrating darkness.
Watching the events of the past few days unfold, we were overwhelmed by this brash and horrific display of bigotry. To join the very community that has been most recently defaced by manifestations of hatred takes an immense sense of duty and courage. You, UVA 2021, have not allowed yourselves to be disheartened, and that is endlessly admirable. Though you did not choose to be a part of this battle, the attitude with which you have all risen to the occasion is inspiring, and we support you with all of our hearts.
In the coming weeks, we will all experience one of the most profound transitions of our lives: a movement towards independence. During this transition, we hope to provide comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. None of us are alone. With this in mind, do not let fear guide your early days of independence and learning. Do not let hatred hinder your growth, intolerance cloud your perspective, or doubt diminish your enthusiasm. Rather, examine, explore, and embrace dissimilar opinions as inspiration for your own.
Remember that diversity is always a positive force, and that it is through this exploration of diversity that we grow into citizens who are both able and willing to enact worthwhile change. By embracing the positive impact of diversity, we can work together to create a stronger nation. A nation wherein every individual is safe and respected, regardless of their background or beliefs.
As we step into our new roles as citizens of Charlottesville and New Haven respectively, we must stand together to embrace our new role as architects of the future. Though it may seem daunting, we should approach this responsibility with enthusiasm, courage, and pride. Namely, we must seek to catalyze change by encouraging and promoting discussions within our communities, rather than allowing sensitive topics to remain unexplored. We must fight unapologetically for justice and equality, and refuse to remain passive in the face of intolerance, bigotry, and oppression.
So, UVA Class of 2021, we hope that, as you begin this next chapter of your lives, you remain confident in yourselves, your fellow classmates, and the knowledge that all of us here at Yale are standing by your side.
Members of the Yale Class of 2021