Mantella, 3 other GVSU presidents condemn violence in Washington, will host roundtable for campus community

headshot of President Philomena Mantella
President Philomena V. Mantella and three other GVSU presidents will host roundtable meetings about democracy, the Constitution and elections.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Below is a message from President Philomena V. Mantella and the other three living GVSU presidents reacting to the violence in Washington and introducing a Presidential Roundtable:

Dear Campus Community,

Last week’s events in our nation’s capital remain front and center in national and international discourse. The storming of the Capitol building, the iconic symbol of our democracy, was shattering to our perspective of our nation. I am reminded of a different day in Washington, in 1974, when the favorite son of Grand Rapids, Gerald Ford, assumed the presidency under extraordinary circumstances. “This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts,” said Mr. Ford to a nation that was living through events once thought unimaginable. Those words seem just as applicable today.

President Ford told us that the guardrails of democracy had held firm through the Watergate scandal when he said: “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” Mr. Ford’s unshakeable belief in democratic institutions was rooted in that of the Founders. It was Thomas Jefferson who told us,“The people are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” 

 An important question arises: where do we go from here? We must strengthen our commitment to principled leadership, civility and democracy, no matter the difference in our views and politics. We must work together, as we move forward from chapters already written in history, through today’s defining moments into a future of greater promise.

three former presidents: Lubbers, Murray and Haas
From left are Arend D. Lubbers, Mark A. Murray and Thomas J. Haas.
Image credit - University Communications

Our GVSU community is fortunate to have generations of faculty and institutional leadership working together to advance our mission. Emblematic of this distinctive Grand Valley ethos, my esteemed predecessors — Thomas Haas, Mark Murray and Arend Lubbers — join me today in condemning the assault on the nation’s capital and spurious attempts to void the results of a fair and free election. 

In further response, we are creating and will jointly host a Presidential roundtable series, called “The Constitution, Elections and Democracy,” with support from the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Padnos/Sarosik Civil Discourse Program in the Meijer Honors College, the Office of Student Life, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. We will, as members of an academic community, seize this moment to explore the divisions straining our civil discourse. Grand Valley is defined by fair, rigorous and open intellectual exchange offered with respect for the rule of law, democracy and the inclusion of people of all backgrounds. Profound pain delivers to us the opportunity to strengthen ourselves, our community and our nation. Careful examination of the Constitution, voting rights and procedures, journalism, social media and other related subjects will bring focus to this undertaking. 

We know our campus community can pull together during this ongoing time of unique trial to be a model of the best humanity has to offer. This series is one such way. We invite you to join us at our roundtable, and also to pursue your own engagements and strengthen the national conversation to build a stronger America through constructive dialogue and by embracing personal responsibility to each other. 



Philomena V. Mantella, GVSU President

Thomas J. Haas, President 2006-2019

Mark A. Murray, President 2001-2006 

Arend D. Lubbers, President 1969-2001


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