The Power of "We"

To the Williams Community,

As we celebrate the end of the academic year and prepare to send our wonderful graduates into the world, I wanted to pause for a moment to share with you some thoughts about the important work we do together that both defines our community and moves it forward.

People often talk about a “purple bubble.” It’s easy to see one, set as we are in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, contemplating our work amid such relative quiet and calm. No force field protects us from the problems of the world, though. What’s more, we deliberately bring together students, faculty, and staff from every part of society, and, in turn, some of us—and some of us more than others—experience disagreement, discomfort, and pain. But this isn’t an experiment in which we’re mixing combustible ingredients to observe a reaction. We’re making a community.

And while we don’t exist independent of the world, I believe we expect more of ourselves, each other, and this place than we do of the rest of the world. I’m grateful to be part of a group of people that is constantly reflecting on who we are and asking tough questions about who we should be and how we get there. That’s Williams at its best. The whole purpose of our work is to educate citizens, women and men who, because of their experiences here, will live fuller and more effective lives and make the world better. The Class of 2014 is about to go do just that, and we’ll be watching with great pride.

Our aspiration to be a better community can’t be achieved by moving swiftly and easily in a straight line from Point A to Point B. Nor is our goal so distant as to absolve us from the hard work required to get there. Rather, we aim at a point on the horizon, and that point—where we know we want to go—guides our steps toward it every single day. That’s the work we do, large and small, public and private, seen and unseen, and there’s no sole hero, no one person or group that alone carries responsibility for our progress.

Students who accept our offer of admission are saying yes to an invitation to co-create Williams with all of us. They come here to be part of something special and to insist upon improving it. Our amazing faculty and staff, so dedicated in their care for students, and our parents and alumni, the world’s most steadfast, are partners in that continuing—and urgent—evolution.

A few days ago, a student at an open meeting offered me some pointed advice. She told me to be careful about speaking for a “we” at Williams. She was right: No single voice can represent the incredible diversity of opinions, backgrounds, and perspectives that exist among us, and each of us, especially those of us in leadership positions, must be careful to listen and give voice to every part of our community.

But in another, very important way, there is a “we” here, and that’s what I’ve been trying to say. We support Williams. We push Williams. We create Williams. Each of us in our individual identities, and together, as a community—we all are Williams.

And now we, all of us, deserve some time to renew. Let’s try to do that over the summer, and then I’ll meet you back here on campus to pick up where we left off.


Adam Falk