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A New Term Begins

A new Presidential and academic term begins. The excitement of the inauguration over, we can all return to work, commitment revitalized, and write our hearts out. An African-American friend said, “I have no more excuses.” I said, “Neither do I.” Onward. Let's write as though we were going to die tomorrow. Let’s write because what we write is important to us and others.

I listened to President Obama’s speech twice and look forward to reading it soon. I was struck by its words, all carefully chosen. Words matter.

After the toasts, the phone calls, the emails, the IM’s, and the Facebook news feeds, I opened a hate-filled email about “stupid Americans” from a European relative and then deleted it without a reply thinking, Every family has an incendiary. I eventually did reply if only to say that hate speech is not welcome in my “in box.” Private hatreds must remain in the private sphere. It has been well documented: Hate speech leads to violence. Not allowed.

That night I recounted the email exchange to a good friend who works for the United Nations and has traveled and worked in more countries than I can name. Words matter, he agreed, and continued with this profound thought: “I hope we can eliminate the prefixes attached to the word American now. We are all Americans.” Indeed.

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