A Message from Bill Goodell

June 5, 2020

Dear Scholars, Alumni and Other Members of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program Community,

As your new Interim Executive Director, I am saddened that my first written communication to you surrounds the heinous death of George Floyd and the outrageous and intolerable police misconduct that precipitated it. No one viewing the video of this incident can help but be enraged and ashamed for our society. It is only the latest in a string of recent atrocities perpetrated in our nation against people of color – and particularly the Black community. That these injustices occur in the midst of a global pandemic which already disproportionately impacts minorities and the disadvantaged only reinforces the stark divides in our world. Leaders of Duke and UNC, among others, have released eloquent statements acknowledging the palpable pain, trauma and anguish that many are experiencing in the aftermath. The Program Staff and I wholeheartedly concur with those sentiments and share feelings of grief, anger, fear and uncertainty. As a society, we must confront with unflinching realism, and condemn, the systemic racism that afflicts our nation. In addressing these and other inequities that plague us, we must acknowledge the persistent failures of our civic institutions. The America we all deserve is better than this; our humanity demands that every person be treated with dignity and respect, and our Constitution commands equality in the dispensation of justice.

Among the highest hopes and aspirations that Julian and Josie Robertson had when establishing this program was to identify the next generation of transformational leaders, with their strong character and sense of purpose, and to equip and empower them.  In the face of recent events, it would be easy for us to retreat into a shell of despair and cynicism. Rather, I hope that our community of current Scholars, our Alumni, and others committed to the RSLP, will fulfill their dreams by rising to the challenges we face. Miriam Singer sent a letter this week to the Search Committee on behalf of the Class of 2018. Among many excellent points, she wrote: “As we were frequently reminded during our time in the Robertson Program, ‘the best leadership emerges in times of adversity.’” We know that making transformational change in communities and society is never easy. The issues surrounding disparate access to health care, reform of policing practices and our criminal justice system are complex and multi-faceted, but demand each of us as community members to put our shoulder to the task. 

We respect the diversity of experiences and views that our Scholars and Alumni bring to the Program. If any of you have suggestions about how the Program can sharpen our understanding of these endemic problems and/or highlight potential solutions as we develop our programming for the academic year, the Robertson Staff and I would welcome your thoughts.