Campus News

“Let us be the nation that we know we can be:” Tony Allen, DSU President

Below is the letter from Dr. Tony Allen, DSU President, admonishing Americans to come together on the aftermath of last week’s presidential election.

November 10, 2020
Last week we Americans learned something about ourselves.  We learned that voting is the voice of ancestors screaming, “There is always something to hope for, to become, to do for your country and for your community.”

On either side of the political spectrum, 150 million of us heard those ancestors clearly, too, and with unrelenting resolve. Among them was the man who will become the 46th President of the United States of America. When President-Elect Biden took the stage on Saturday night, he implored all of us:

With full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with a love of country — and a thirst for justice — let us be the nation that we know we can be.

A nation united. A nation strengthened. A nation healed.

In 1996 I was a twenty-six-year-old single father, fresh from completing my Master’s degree at Baruch College in New York.   When I came home, I was formally introduced to then U.S.-Senator Biden and applied for a position as a special assistant and speechwriter in his Wilmington office.  To my surprise, he hired me, and for the next four  years while working for him and finishing my doctoral degree, I learned – up close – about a man who knows the nation we can be.

I met the President-Elect almost exactly halfway between the two great tragedies of his life — the accident that killed his wife and daughter in 1972 and the cancer which took his son Beau in 2015 — and today I realize that few political leaders have been so tempered in the fire of loss and yet remained so strong and empathetic.

Some political leaders carefully cultivate an image that is greater than reality, larger than life. It becomes so outsized that when they fail to live up to it, the fail is rapid and unforgiving. Not Joe Biden.

He speaks plainly and with a clear connection to the profoundly American places like Claymont, Scranton and Prices Run pool in the East Side of Wilmington. He also understands the clarity and depth that define the nuances of public policy in Congress. There is no contradiction here: the President-Elect belongs in all of these worlds.

I am proud of my relationship with Joe Biden. Our first Black American President, Barack Obama, chose him to be the man standing by his side. Joe paid it forward by selecting Senator Kamala Harris to be the first Black American female Vice President standing with him. 

I am proud to know him because he gave me a shot.   And then, when it was time for me to go my own way, he supported me and effectively became one of my biggest cheerleaders and an enduring friend.  I have watched the husband he is and the father he is and the grandfather he is and know that I can be and should be a better man.   And I look forward to watching the President he is and living in a yet imperfect, but better America.

For those who have natural concerns about his record or where he would lead the country, just remember that great leaders evolve and grow.  From calling systemic racism by its name to steadfastly creating law in an unending fight against violence toward women to dispelling the notion that any judgement should be cast on any American because of where they come from, what they look like or who they love – Joe Biden grew.   And we are a better country because of it. It is clear that the United States remains a deeply divided nation. An unbiased look at our history knows that this is not a new reality. Yet together we have faced daunting, seemingly impossible challenges time and time again.    It is the words of our history that bind us, “We the people,” “I have a dream,” “Ask not what your country can do for you,” “The Audacity of Hope.”

Four years ago, the Saturday after the 2016 election, I wrote a piece inspired by David Chappelle’s opening monologue and the legendary hip-hop group, Tribe Called Quest.  This past Saturday, an hour or two after President-Elect Biden addressed the nation, I watched Chapelle deliver another compelling monologue. He ended this way:

“I would implore everybody who’s celebrating today to remember, it’s good to be a humble winner. Remember when I was here four years ago? Remember how bad that felt? Remember that half the country right now still feels that way.” He continued, using law enforcement as his proxy for all Americans feeling anxiety today:

 “You’re a police officer. And every time you put your uniform on, you feel like you’ve got a target on your back. You’re appalled by the ingratitude that people have when you would risk your life to save them. Oh, man. Believe me. Believe me, I know how that feels. Everyone knows how that feels.” 

He then paused, looked away.

“But here’s the difference between me and you. You guys hate each other for that. And I don’t hate anybody. I just hate that feeling.”

Can Joe Biden alone heal the wounds that divide our nation and conquer our many challenges? Obviously not. But he is uniquely qualified to remind us all of our shared humanity, a humanity that fights against feelings of isolation and “us versus them” and fights for the one thing we all believe.  That humanity derives from our Founders’ insistence that we are all “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Let’s begin that pursuit again today. Together.
Tony Allen, Ph.D.President

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