David A. Greene

I spend much of my time looking ahead, working to imagine how things can be instead of settling for how they are at the moment. I have great respect for history and tradition and the accumulated knowledge and progress that come with time, discoveries, and enlightenment. But I am not a nostalgic person. My view is that our best days are ahead as long as we commit to making them so.

Yet this year I find myself yearning for values that I fear are becoming old fashioned, out of date, and less relevant to and important in our lives. We seem to have dismissed principles like accountability, contrition, and forgiveness, replacing them with denial, name-calling, and vitriol.

We see this in our local, state, and national leaders from all sectors and political parties. Even when confronted with incontrovertible evidence of their wrongdoing, those in positions of authority blame others for their own failings, twist the truth, and wait out the storm of criticism as if nothing had happened.

The result is a contagious lowering of the bar of civility and integrity that has defined a new norm for behavior. Our campus and broader community are not immune to the dark arts of blame shifting and hubris. Here, too, we experience divisions, sometimes based on real and serious issues, other times the result of our growing willingness to traffic in rumors, innuendo, and labeling. At times we seem so certain of the rightness—the righteousness—of our own views that we insult and demonize others who see things differently.

Our nation—indeed, the world—would benefit if our leaders acted with the courage to acknowledge their mistakes and misdeeds, asked for forgiveness, and pledged to do better moving forward. The same applies to our own community. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we recognized human fallibility, the power of redemption through good deeds, and the healing balm of forgiveness? Wouldn’t we be stronger, more honest, and ultimately happier if we had the humility to acknowledge our personal travails, admit the flaws and biases in our own views, and take the opportunity to learn from others, imperfect as they (and we) might be?

Standing on this higher ground is vitally important to Colby’s mission and purpose. We close ourselves to learning and deep understanding when we adopt finger-pointing and reflexive condemnation, and in doing so we reject the very purpose of our community, which is to learn by critically analyzing and interpreting extant works and knowledge, to marshal evidence and test arguments, and to search for truth and new discoveries. That work requires careful thought and rigor yet remains fraught with failure. It is work that is both enlightening and humbling. And it teaches us to recognize the limitations and even fraudulence of those who rarely go beyond the superficial while pretending to be all-knowing definers of the truth.

Colby should never be a place that follows the recent distressing trends. We should stand for what is right, hold ourselves accountable to the highest intellectual and personal standards, and have the humility and goodness of heart to forgive. Old fashioned or not, these values must be the hallmark of our community.

Perhaps I am a little nostalgic after all.

David A. Greene

David A. Greene