Giving and Taking Action

I know that most of you give to the max every day—in your work, in your personal lives, and to those around you—so I hesitate to ask for more. But I have two things I would like you to consider.

1. This year, on Give to the Max Day, November 15, the Medical School will be raising money to support our annual White Coat Ceremony. We want to be able to give each incoming first-year student an engraved stethoscope and white coat as a symbol of community support and to equip them for the years ahead of them. Please read more and find information about donating.

2. We are members of many circles of responsibility: the Medical School, the University, Minnesota, the United States. Each of these carries certain rights and privileges; the line between rights and privileges becoming blurry in this present day. Take, for example, the University.

Too often in current discourse, we hear Opinion’s voice raised above Fact’s, as if the louder it is shouted, the more right it must be. The value of expertise is thus eroded, devalued, distrusted. Here, at the University, we hold the land-grant imperative to preserve a public place for articulate discourse, guilt-free voicing of contrarian views, moral translation of scientific discoveries into actions that can improve the lives of Minnesotans, and the responsibility for the professional and personal growth of our future generations. We hold, in public trust, the imperative to produce and protect data- and evidence-based truths.

Much of what we do is protected by the abstract civic virtue we call “academic freedom.” This ancient and core belief, that we have the right to explore (within the constraints of law) the most difficult and controversial questions, is now more commonly seen as a privilege. While rights are assumed to be constant and ongoing, privilege is not. Privilege is granted by the majority.

In the days to come, most of us will have the opportunity to take one of the most solemn, personal, and immediate actions on society that exists in this country. I hope that if this falls within your circle of responsibility that you will participate.