The night before my birthday, Nov. 3, I received the gift I was hoping for but didn’t expect: The Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
I attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and lived in Illinois for 20 years, so I couldn’t help but join with the entire nation — excluding Ohio — in celebrating with the Cubs.
On Tuesday of this week, I received another gift — one of the very best I ever remember receiving. UF engineering professor Wolfgang Sigmund and members of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee came to give me a beautiful plaque with a photograph of Century Tower lit in rainbow colors.
The words on the plaque start with “Dear President Fuchs, Thank you,” and the plaque describes how our campus came together to mourn the loss of 49 lives in the Pulse nightclub shooting and how we visibly demonstrated our unity, support and love for all. The inscription on the plaque ends in bold font with “We are grateful for your humanity, your kindness, and your leadership.”
Given the divisiveness, hate and fear seen across our nation, my prayer is that I and every UF student, faculty and staff member will always be known for humanity, kindness and leadership.
I have three aspirations for all Gators.
First, that we denounce all forms of hate. I hope even shy and introverted individuals like me will speak up and replace hate with active love. Many members of our wonderfully diverse UF community are afraid. It is my hope that each of us, in our words and actions, demonstrates our support for those who feel threatened and defends the rights of all. At a minimum, I urge our community to report messages and incidents of concern to our U Matter, We Care program.
Second, that we commit to always listening to each other, even when the message is hard to hear. This is a community of learners and educators. We will not benefit from our rich diversity if we do not understand one another.
Third, I ask that each of us work to improve the lives of all people. We can do this individually in how we live our lives and as a university overall, through our scholarship, teaching and engagement with society.
While traveling the past two weeks, I’ve been playing the music of Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen. Both were prolific songwriters and musicians, and both died this month. Kate McKinnon sang Cohen’s “Hallelujah” for the cold open of “Saturday Night Live” this past week.
The closing refrain is: “I’ll stand before the Lord of Song/With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”
Cohen’s “Hallelujah” reflects my mood of the past year. I’m mournful for the lack of love I’ve observed, but I’m also truly hopeful that the time is coming when love will win and we will be able to say hallelujah.
I ask that you join me in making our university, state and nation stronger and better for all.
Kent Fuchs is the president of UF. His column appears monthly.