On Spirit and Citizenship

Dear students, faculty, staff, and GSM community,

Today marks the first judgment delivered by our society on the horrific death of George Floyd due to the deadly chokehold put on him by Derek Chauvin. Each of us has an opinion of and a preferred ending to this event. While we may have differences in the interpretation of the events surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death, as was laid out by the prosecution and defense teams, we all agree that what happened is a tragedy and we wish it did not happen. On that day, or ever again.

We are not a perfect society, nor are all of us individually without blemish. Yet we have managed to put together a society that rests on law and order, individual freedom, and the right of an individual to attain success in whatever endeavor they choose for themselves. At UC Davis, we see these ideals take shape year after year, as we see our graduates attain success in their myriad pursuits. We rejoice when we learn about the high proportion of first-generation students we host every year who go on to do impressive things, putting UC Davis at the top in the world as a university that works tirelessly to promote social mobility. Progress and human ascension appear to take birth wherever the goodness of human beings converges.

We are also confronted by the reality of unfairness that prevails from time to time—an opportunity that was not given to the deserving or a punishment that was given to the undeserving. Human frailty being what it is, we cannot dictate goodness or eliminate unfairness. But as committed citizens of this society, as those who chose to pursue truth through education, as those who want to make the world better through our profession, it is time for us to draw upon the strength we have been building over our lifetimes through our value systems.

Let us look beyond our superficial differences, reflect on the goodness in each of us, and renew our commitment to live a life that is marked by collaboration—inspiring others, helping others succeed, bringing positive energy and building trust, and being humble and learning continuously. That, to me, is the GSM spirit and citizenship. It is time to invoke that spirit and let it spread. Thank you for being a critical part of this GSM citizenship.


H. Rao Unnava