November 8, 2020

Dear William Paterson Community,

After days of uncertainty, we now know that America’s voters have chosen Joe Biden as our next President and Kamala Harris as Vice President, the first in what will hopefully be a long line of women on winning tickets, including at the top.
I know this news will delight some and, perhaps, dismay others. Having been duly elected, however, Biden and Harris have earned the chance to govern and make good on their promise to represent and serve the entire country and begin healing its many divisions. We can debate the causes, but there is no denying that our nation has become increasingly polarized over the past four years. It falls to all of us, no matter who we supported, to work to bridge those divisions, so that our country can deliver on its promise as a place of justice and equality for all. 
This was indeed an historic election for many reasons. Our democratic process was tested by the pandemic. Our country is in the midst of a severe economic downturn. And yet, we saw a record turnout, and we elected the first female vice president, a person of color. President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris prevailed at the polls, but most importantly – and most profoundly – democracy won. The will of the people was realized and has determined who will lead our nation for the next four years. 
We should be grateful to all the poll workers and all those who spent countless hours validating and counting mail, provisional, and military ballots, despite the risk to their health and, in some cases, their personal safety. We should also acknowledge our election officials, who resisted immense pressure and remained true to the principle of a free and fair election to ensure that all valid votes are counted. 
One of President-elect Biden’s favorite poems, Doubletake, by Seamus Heaney, contains a line that I think is very apt as we think about the election process and all of our advocacy efforts: “History says, ‘Don’t hope on this side of the grave.’” It reminds us that we must act, whether it is exercising our right to vote, working against racism, or advocating for social justice and equality – lest we merely be hoping for change, before it is too late.
Speaking last night, Vice President-elect Harris quoted the late Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis on this point: "(He) wrote, 'Democracy is not a state, it is an act.' And what he meant was that America's democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it.'"  
I am fond of saying that hope is not a strategy. Our students give us hope for a more just and fair country, but our strategy must focus on coming together as educators to teach them how to think about and act on the opportunities ahead. Teach them to be thoughtful about the challenges, and continue to inspire them to get into what Congressman Lewis called “good trouble.”
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD