'Stand Against Racism' Remarks

HMS Dean George Q. Daley speaks to HMS community

The following is the address given by Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley to participants in the School's "Stand Against Racism" rally held April 22 on the HMS Quad and online. 

Good afternoon and welcome. I cannot tell you how meaningful it is to me to gather together today, in person and virtually, in community, to stand against racism.

Racism in any form is unacceptable. All members of our community should feel safe at work, at home, and everywhere in between. There is much more we can and must do. This work is the responsibility of each and every one of us. We do the work as individuals, but more powerfully, we do so in the collective and as a community. 

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I stand with you and I know you all stand with me.  That gives me hope.

Before I start, I want to lead you all in a round of applause and thanks to Tony Johnson, and his talented son Dimitri (who is only 12- years old and who beautifully provided accompaniment on the drums).  Tony is associate dean for student social justice and inclusion at the Rhode Island School of Design.  We are so glad that you were able to be with us today so that we could begin today’s program in reflection as Tony shared his song. 

I wanted to share a little about the selections Tony sang because they are meaningful. 

The first selection is a medley of two songs.  "I Shall Not Be Moved" is a traditional American folk song adopted by activists of the 1930s. It serves as an invocation and call to gather.

The second song in the medley, "If I Can Help Somebody," underscores a legacy of faith, American activism, and anti-racism. Written in 1945, this song was central in Dr. Martin Luther King’s movement and is widely known, serving as a personal affirmation of the power of self to make a make meaningful change.

The second song, "Man in the Mirror," is a call for personal reflection, inspection, and action. It calls for deep inner work in order to realize lasting external change. 

And that is where we are. Change is coming. 

Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.”  Join me—let’s continue to build the new.

Two days ago, we heard the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. It affirmed for us that justice has been served. It provided some semblance of relief for a nation under distress. And yet, this justice does not erase what happened to George Floyd or so many others. We can never stop seeking justice, and we must always stand with those, and be those, who are fighting for change. We continue to build the new.

I know that for so many, the trial reopened a wound. A wound that never has a chance to heal, especially this year as the backdrop for this trial and our nation rests in something more insidious that has not yet been fully addressed. And it is the result of racism, inequality, and discrimination.

Members of our Black and Brown communities, and those on the margins, who often are without voice, are disproportionately suffering and dying from illness and disease. COVID-19 has taught the U.S. a hard lesson about the role of social determinants of health in patient outcomes, but this is not new information. We must go beyond recognizing the impact of these economic and social conditions and commit to further understanding the root causes and addressing them.

And the wound of the trial has reopened still other wounds of many members of our community, and served as a reminder for others of the discrimination and injustices faced by so many in our society. My heart goes out to those who are suffering and who are fearful. Please know that I am committed to ensuring that HMS is a safe haven.

HMS is a community of healers and leaders. Our mission and values and our diversity statement signify our deep commitment to respect, integrity, and accountability. Among these core principles is that we acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of our history and actively promote social justice, challenge discrimination, and address disparities and inequities.

Each of us stands here, or sits at a computer, as a defender of higher ideals and an advocate for a more just and inclusive society.

I ask each of you to take a few moments today to reflect on our individual roles and responsibilities, as HMS continues the work of our aspirations as a community.

Through both individual and collective action, HMS can be a force for good and an agent of change during these challenging times. Join us and be a pollinator for racial justice and social change.