The outcomes of the 2020 presidential race and many others remain uncertain this morning as a record number of mail-in ballots are counted in battleground states. I encourage us all to practice patience as the democratic process unfolds.
All of us today, regardless of our political views, have been propelled through an emotional and tense election season layered with the COVID-19 pandemic, a backdrop of social unrest, and, on the local level, a completely unusual fall semester.
I hope you had a chance to vote in this year’s election—one that broke records here in California and nationally. In California, a record 22,047,448 people registered to vote, representing about 88 percent of eligible voters. This is the highest percentage in the past 80 years, according to the secretary of state.
Records for early voting were set across the nation, with more than 100 million people casting their ballots prior to Nov. 3. Many states set records for early voting, and in some cases even surpassed the total number of votes cast in the 2016 election.
Election Day is one of the most empowering events in our country’s 244-year-old democracy. With the multitude of complex challenges facing the United States at this crucial moment in our history—issues like social injustice and racial inequality, and economic uncertainty as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic—I think we can all agree that this year’s election is one of the most important in US history, or at least in modern times.
Regardless of your political affiliation and the election outcome, my message to everyone at this moment is let’s find a way to focus on what unites us, not divides us, and turn our energy toward what we can do to improve our communities.
Chico State is built on bedrock values of supporting and encouraging a diverse and inclusive community where people, regardless of their individual preferences or who they voted for this election, are treated fairly, equitably, and as partners in problem-solving.
It’s this same approach of embracing difference and uniting around shared interests and values that’s critical in solving some of the big issues before us:
- Social and racial injustice—and a divided country
- A global pandemic and teetering economy
- A changing climate that threatens our way of life
- Income inequality that translates to unequal access to quality health care, education, and housing
- A fair and just approach to immigration
Make no mistake, there continues to be a defining choice before us. We can choose to be united and address these and other problems, or be divided and squander the opportunity to make a better future for ourselves, our families, and our communities. The popular phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall” couldn’t be more poignant.
If you are among those in the Chico State community who feel stressed or anxious about the election and delayed outcome, know that I and other campus leaders are here for you. Staff and faculty are currently reaching out to student groups and individuals who have expressed concerns, and we will respond to ensure everyone in our community feels safe and supported.
Any reports of taunting, harassing, and of course threats and/or physical violence, will be dealt with swiftly. If you are a victim or a witness of bias or harassment in the coming days, we encourage you to report the incident to the Campus Assessment Response and Education (CARE) Team. For students who need someone to talk to immediately, WellCat Counseling provides free 24/7 support, 530-898-6345.
In addition to what Chico State can offer, I encourage you to reach out to family and friends for support. These are the people who know you best and can offer the type of comfort perhaps no one else can.
For those of you who voted for the first time, congratulations for making your voice heard and taking part in a democratic system that’s envied around the world. And for those of you who have a tradition of voting, thank you for continuing to believe in our democracy. Those of us who have a history of casting ballots know that no matter the outcome of the 2020 election, it’s up to each of us to work with those in office—whether at the national, state, or local level—to turn our vision for a better future into reality. The truth is elected officials come and go, but we, the people, make enduring change possible.