January 7, 2021

Dear Trinity College Community Members,

What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was, as so many have said, an astonishing attack on our democracy. What began as a protest against the legitimate outcome of the presidential election turned dangerous and, indeed, deadly, when rioters stormed the Capitol, halting the electoral count that was under way in Congress. Law enforcement eventually secured the Capitol, and legislators completed their constitutional duty in confirming Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president. But today, our nation and our democracy feel far from secure.

It is past time to put aside political differences and unite in protecting our nation. As shocking and shameful as yesterday’s events were, they could not have come as a surprise, following sustained efforts to undermine our election systems and overturn the results. As a leader, I am compelled to use my voice to condemn in the clearest manner possible not only the violence and lawlessness we saw yesterday, but also the dangerous and deceptive rhetoric that stoked the insurrection.

What happens now? Honestly, I don’t know, and that’s the answer I’d give my children and my students. Today and the days ahead are consequential for us as a nation, for future generations, for the world, and for history. How we respond—in demanding accountability, in repairing the breach in our society, in learning from this dark chapter and from the history that preceded it—matters. As strongly as I believe in our democracy, I believe, too, in the power of education to shine a light on truth, to inform a citizenry, and to advance understanding.

We must do better and be better as a nation and as a society. Please stay safe and take care of yourselves and one another.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience